Ten children were murdered in the state of Connecticut last year, according to the Office of Child Advocate's annual report that examines the deaths of infants and toddlers.
According to the report, children from birth to three years of age, unlike older kids, are more likely to die from unsafe sleep environments, child abuse, or accidental injury.
Child Advocate Sarah Eagan said that unlike 2012, when there were no infant and toddler homicides, 2013 had the highest number in a given year in more than a decade. "Two of the children died from gun shot wounds and the remainder died from conditions associated with child abuse," she said.
Eagan said five of the homicides occurred in families that had either current or previous involvement with the Department of Children and Families. She stressed prevention of child maltreatment and fatalities doesn't rest solely on DCF. Instead, she said part of the review is to explore DCF practice issues, but also to explore the risk factors that are present in families that increase the likelihood of a child dying.
"Whether that death was intentionally caused or otherwise, there are multiple risk factors in the home such as a history of substance abuse, mental health challenges, repeat child welfare exposure," Eagan said. "I think the implications of those findings speak both to things DCF can do differently maybe to respond to these families but also what can we do as a community to support more at-risk families before there's an issue of maltreatment."
Eagan's office reviewed 82 fatalities last year. More than half were considered natural deaths including Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS. In June DCF announced a partnership with Yale-New Haven Hospital and Connecticut Children's Medical Center to improve how DCF staff, hospitals, and doctors recognize and identify abuse when a child suffers an injury. The efforts include a pilot program to make medical experts more available to DCF's Careline.