Special Efforts Being Made in Maryland to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities

Maryland is one of eight states participating in the Three Branch Institute’s technical assistance effort on child safety and strategies to eliminate child fatalities due to abuse and neglect. The Three Branch Institute was founded in 2009 as a partnership among the National Governors Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures, Casey Family Programs, the National Center for State Courts and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. 3BI states developed child fatality prevention plans that will be implemented by December 2017.   [Recommendation 5.2b] 

Maryland is investing $200 million in a cloud-based data repository that will make it easier to share information across departments. The first phase of the MD THINK project will focus on sharing information between the state’s human resources and health departments to help children in foster care, disconnected youth and families. Caseworkers will receive tablet devices for the first time so they can input data in the field. The state received $195 million in federal funding for the project and is kicking in $14 million of its own money this year.  [Recommendation 6.1]

The Maryland Patient Safety Center is working with 30 birthing centers across the state to come up with standardized care for babies suffering from what is known as neonatal abstinence syndrome, a range of symptoms common in babies exposed to opioids, alcohol, narcotics or other drugs while in the womb. New standards of care for substance-exposed infants include creating a calming environment with little stimulation and low lighting and the use of cuddle rooms where volunteers rock and soothe babies. Some hospitals are also using massage and music therapy. The group hopes to reduce the frequency of readmission to the hospital and speed up recovery time for babies, who are in the hospital an average of 26 days in Maryland.  [Recommendation 7.2f]

Maryland convened a new state-level child fatality review team, complementing the local teams in place in every Maryland county.  This state team has been meeting for most of a year to conduct retrospective reviews of all child abuse and neglect fatalities.  It is a team that includes members from three state level collaboratives, including the Maryland Child Fatality Review Board, the State Council on Child Abuse and Neglect and the Maryland Citizen’s Review Board for Children.

Local effort in Baltimore City:   Baltimore City’s Child Fatality Review Team (CFRT) created a sub-committee when they found that 2015 saw the highest number of child abuse and neglect homicides in the city since the CFRT’s inception.  The sub-committee reviewed and reported on 37 homicides occurring over a number of years, uncovered the underlying risk factors for these homicides and prescribed a prevention plan for the city.  Their high impact recommendations are rooted in a public health prevention framework and include a need for child welfare differential response for infants and toddlers, identification of highest risk children by multiple community agencies, access to high quality services for substance using caregivers, policy advocacy for safe and affordable child care and care coordination for families with histories of neglect.  The CFRT is also working in partnership with the State of Maryland’s Three Branch Institute Initiative to reach critical mass in the state around child maltreatment prevention. [Recommendation 6.2]

Local effort in Prince George County:  In response to growing numbers of child maltreatment fatalities linked to paramours, Prince George’s County launched a child safety awareness campaign that asks parents, “Do you know who is watching your children?” The campaign provides information about child care resources and how to screen potential caregivers. [Recommendation 2.1]

Local effort in Hagerstown, MD: Washington County, Maryland held a Child Fatality Prevention community forum in 2016 to better understand maltreatment deaths, to review current county strategies to prevent deaths, and to explore community-focused opportunities to improve collaborations across sectors to strengthen families and improve child and family wellbeing. The county is working on a fatality prevention plan.