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

In July 2016, the Rhode Island General Assembly enacted Senate Bill 2717 and House Bill 8069, each of which require DCYF to notify the Office of the Child Advocate verbally and electronically within 48 hours of a confirmed fatality or near fatality of a child who is the subject of a DCYF case and shall provide the office of the child advocate with access to any written material about the case.  The child advocate, working with a voluntary and confidential child-fatality-review panel, whose members may vary on a case-by-case basis, shall review the case records of all notifications of fatalities and near fatalities of children under 21 years of age, if the fatality or near fatality occurs while in the custody of, or involved with, the department, or if the child's family previously received services from the department; the fatality or near fatality is alleged to be from abuse or neglect of the child; or a sibling, household member, or day care provider has been the subject of a child abuse and neglect investigation within the previous 12 months, including, without limitation, cases in which the report was unsubstantiated or the investigation is currently pending.  The child-fatality-review panel shall assess and analyze such cases; make recommendations regarding such cases; and make recommendations for improvements to laws, policies, and practices that support the safety of children. Each report shall be made public within 30 days of its completion. [Recommendations 5.3d, 6.1a, 6.1d]

In May 2016, the Rhode Island General Assembly enacted Senate Bill 2096, also known as the Rhode Island Family Home Visiting Act, directing the Rhode Island Department of Health to coordinate the system of early childhood home visiting services and work with the Department of Human Services and DCYF to identify effective, evidence-based home visiting models that meet the needs of vulnerable families with young children. The measure also directs the Department of Health to implement a system to identify and refer families prenatally or as early after the birth of a child as possible to voluntary, evidence-based home visiting programs. The referral system shall prioritize families for services based on risk factors known to impair child development, including adolescent parent(s); history of prenatal drug or alcohol abuse; history of child maltreatment, domestic abuse, or other types of violence; incarcerated parent(s); reduced parental cognitive functioning or significant disability; insufficient financial resources to meet family needs; history of homelessness; or other risk factors as determined by the Department. [Recommendation 7.1]