A group that has a grim task celebrated its 10th anniversary today at the Iowa statehouse. The Iowa child Death Review Team began in 1995 and now reviews the deaths of all kids in the state from birth to age 17.
Marshalltown Police Chief Lon Walker is the chair of the review team. Walker says, “Some may think that it’s somewhat strange that we celebrate today considering the work we do. But I feel that it’s important that we recognize the people that volunteer their time and their talent to make Iowa a safer place for our children. So, today we celebrate the lives that I hope we have saved, and will save through the work of the child death review team.
Walker says he recently reviewed the 10 years of annual reports made by the team. He says, “It is sad that many of the recommendations made over the 10 years go unheeded. But it is also gratifying and encouraging to read where positive changes have been made.” Walker says they have 10 years of data to draw on that show trends that support change. He says they need to listen to what the data tells them to make Iowa a safer place for children.
Walker says parents are to blame for some of the recommendations that are not followed. He says, “We see children that are dying of the same kinds of things year in and year out. And sometimes parents just aren’t equipped to be good parents, and it’s frustrating, because that’s something we really have no control over.”
Walker says the review team has been able to make positive contributions, such as campaigning to educate parents to help prevent sudden infant death syndrome.
He says dealing with child restraints, opening up the ability to share information with other agencies to help surviving siblings in a home where they might be at risk. Walker says they’re also working on some other things, such as graduate driver’s license sanctions and issue with autopsies of children to gather more information.
The review team runs about one year behind in releasing its report on deaths due to the time it takes to go through all the records. In 2003 the team investigated the deaths of 404 kids. The most deaths reviewed were 472 in 2000.