Friday, May 22, 2009

Get ready for the CFRC hearing

Here are some documents that might help the public prepare for the July 1 public hearing on the most recent annual report from the Child Fatality Review Committee (CFRC):
  • District of Columbia Child Fatality Review Committee 2007 Annual Report, presented to Mayor Fenty in December 2008.   What is particularly interesting about this report is that it is not on the DC government Web site but rather on that of the National Center for Child Death Review Policy and Practice/National MCH Center for Child Death Review.

    In fact, the following appears on the Web site of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner:   "CFRC Annual Reports: CFRC annual reports are available in hard copies."   (Contact information is provided so the public may request a copy.)   Yet you can only get to this page by conducting an Internet search; I tried many ways to find this page from the main OCME site but no luck.   Why is this important? Well, one of the criticisms of the government is their failure to use the recommendations to improve practice.   It’s really hard to make improvements if you don’t know what the recommendations are. . . .

  • District of Columbia Child Fatality Review Committee 2006 Annual Report and the District of Columbia Child Fatality Review Committee 2006 Recommendations and Agency Responses.   These documents are important because they were part of 2007 and 2008 efforts by the city’s leadership (the mayor, senior aide and now AG Peter Nickles, and CM Tommy Wells) to ensure that the recommendations made were implemented.   The July 1, 2009 hearing will hopefully bring to light the government’s current commitment to adopting the recommended changes.
  • Fenty freezes hiring, cuts budget of committee to prevent child deaths by the Examiner’s Bill Myers in August 2008.   I hope that CM Mendelson makes a point to determine how the mayor planned to implement the 2006 recommendations in this context:
    Mayor Adrian Fenty has instituted a hiring freeze and is slashing the budget of the city agency charged with making recommendations to prevent children’s deaths in D.C., The Examiner has learned.
    The Child Fatality Review Committee looks over every child’s death in D.C. and compiles an annual report designed to help city leaders shape policies to protect kids. In February. Fenty froze its staff, leaving the committee with several unfilled positions, including a key coordinator.
  • In 2001, three Washington Post reporters published a series of investigative pieces shining light on cases of a "pattern of official neglect".   Sari Horwitz, Scott Higham and Sarah Cohen won a 2002 Pulitzer for their investigative reporting.   About the committee’s recommendations, the journalists wrote this:
    In eight years of confidential reports, fatality committee members issued more than 300 warnings about these and other problems in reviews of the 180 deaths, the analysis showed.   They proposed specific solutions to the mayor, the D.C. Council, the police chief, the director of the Child and Family Services Agency and the chief judge of D.C. Superior Court.   But over the years, even as some officials left and new ones took over, the great majority of the proposed solutions went unheeded.
    "No one paid any attention to us," said Elizabeth Siegel, a lawyer and fatality committee member.
    Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D), who was elected in 1998, is working to revamp the entire system.

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