BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                    AB 1737


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          Date of Hearing:  March 15, 2016
          Consultant:          Matt Dean


                         ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC SAFETY


                       Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer, Sr., Chair





          AB  
                    1737 (McCarty) - As Introduced  February 1, 2016




          SUMMARY:  Requires counties to establish interagency child death  
          review teams to assist local agencies in identifying and  
          reviewing suspicious child deaths and facilitating communication  
          among persons who perform autopsies and the various persons and  
          agencies involved in child abuse or neglect cases.

          EXISTING LAW: 

          1)Allows counties to establish interagency child death review  
            teams to assist local agencies in identifying and reviewing  
            suspicious child deaths and facilitating communication among  
            persons who perform autopsies and the various persons and  
            agencies involved in child abuse or neglect cases, but does  
            not require counties to establish child death review teams.   
            (Pen. Code,  11174.32.)

          2)States that interagency child death teams have been used  
            successfully to ensure that incidents of child abuse or  
            neglect are recognized and other siblings and non-offending  
            family members receive the appropriate services in cases where  
            a child has expired.  (Pen. Code,  11174.32(a).)

          3)States that each county may develop a protocol that may be  








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            used as a guideline by persons performing autopsies on  
            children to assist coroners and other persons who perform  
            autopsies in the identification of child abuse or neglect, in  
            the determination of whether child abuse or neglect  
            contributed to death or whether child abuse or neglect had  
            occurred prior to but was not the actual cause of death, and  
            in the proper written reporting procedures for child abuse or  
            neglect, including the designation of the cause and mode of  
            death.  (Pen. Code,  11174.32(b).)

          4)States that in developing an interagency child death team and  
            an autopsy protocol, each county, working in consultation with  
            local members of the California State Coroner's Association  
            and county child abuse prevention coordinating councils, may  
            solicit suggestions and final comments from persons,  
            including, but not limited to, the following:

             a)   Experts in the field of forensic pathology;

             b)   Pediatricians with expertise in child abuse;

             c)   Coroners and medical examiners;

             d)   Criminologists;

             e)   District attorneys;

             f)   Child protective services staff;

             g)   Law enforcement personnel;

             h)   Representatives of local agencies which are involved  
               with child abuse or neglect reporting;

             i)   County health department staff who deals with children's  
               health issues; and

             j)   Local professional associations of persons described in  
               paragraphs (1) to (9), inclusive.  (Pen. Code,   
               11174.32(c).) 

          5)Clarifies that records exempt from disclosure to third parties  








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            pursuant to state or federal law shall remain exempt from  
            disclosure when they are in the possession of a child death  
            review team.  (Pen. Code,  11174.32(d).)

          6)Requires each child death review team to make available to the  
            public findings, conclusions and recommendations of the team,  
            including aggregate statistical data on the incidences and  
            causes of child deaths.  The team is required to withhold the  
            child's last name unless certain exceptions apply.  (Pen.  
            Code,  11174.32(e).)

          FISCAL EFFECT:   Unknown

          COMMENTS:   

          1)Author's Statement:  According to the author, "AB 1737 aims to  
            increase accountability and transparency and as a community  
            improve protection services for children.  The purpose of  
            producing an annual child death report is to provide vital  
            information should children be dying of similar reasons in one  
            county compared to another.  With no data of common  
            occurrences, county officials do not have accurate information  
            to link these occurrences and therefore prevent future deaths.  
             This bill requires all counties to produce an annual child  
            death review report in order to identify how and why children  
            die, to further facilitate the creation and implementation of  
            strategies to prevent future deaths."

          2)Background:  According to the background submitted by the  
            author, "the child death review teams in California began as  
            informal gatherings of concerned parents and professionals  
            that wanted to take proper steps in order to review child  
            deaths and learn from them in order to save other children's  
            lives.  

          "In 1988, California legislation was enacted to establish child  
            death review teams in order to investigate suspicious child  
            deaths and facilitate communication among the various entities  
            that could provide useful information for the annual report.

          "Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recorded  
            over 23,000 infant deaths in the United States for 2014. In  








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            California, the Department of Social Services (CDSS) reported  
            that 88 child fatalities resulted from abuse and/or neglect  
            for 2014, but a complete summary of child death reports had  
            not been finalized at the time the data was collected. Despite  
            efforts to produce an annual child death report, there are  
            only an estimated 22 active child death review teams  
            throughout the state, leaving many counties without a  
            reporting mechanism.  We believe that one reason for the lack  
            of participation in every county is due to a lack of existing  
            law's explicit requirement to report. It is the intent of this  
            legislation to create uniformity among counties by requiring  
            all to produce an annual child death report in hopes of  
            learning from past deaths and prevent future ones."

          The primary purpose of child death review teams is to prevent  
            future child deaths.  At the county level, these teams produce  
            educational materials so that the more common causes of child  
            death can be prevented.  For example, according to the author,  
            in Sacramento "The Sacramento County Child Death Review Team,  
            which reviews the deaths of every child that dies in  
            Sacramento County, has used the report's findings in order to  
            create public awareness campaigns. The recommendations have  
            translated to the Shaken Baby Syndrome Prevention Campaign,  
            the Infant Safe Sleep Campaign, and the Drowning Prevention  
            Campaign to reduce preventable deaths."  However, each  
            county's experience is different.  This is where statewide  
            child death review can help prevent counties from duplicating  
            efforts. 

          The statewide child death review council is responsible for  
            collecting data and information from the counties and turning  
            it into reports to the public and Legislature.  Part of the  
            statutory scheme that created child death review teams  
            included creation of the Child Death Review Council "to  
            coordinate and integrate state and local efforts to address  
            fatal child abuse or neglect, and to create a body of  
            information to prevent child deaths."  (Penal Code Section  
            11174.34(a)(1).)  The Child Death Review Council is required  
            to "[a]nalyze and interpret state and local data on child  
            death in an annual report to be submitted to local child death  
            review teams with copies to the Governor and the Legislature,  
            no later than July 1 each year.  Copies of the report shall  








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            also be distributed to California public officials who deal  
            with child abuse issues and to those agencies responsible for  
            child death investigation in each county.  The report shall  
            contain, but not be limited to, information provided by state  
            agencies and the county child death review teams for the  
            preceding year."  (Penal Code Section 11174.34(d)(1).)   
            Therefore, a report analyzing the data collected by each local  
            child death review team is currently a public document.   
            Requiring each local child death review team to also make  
            public its own data appears to be consistent with the overall  
            objectives of the teams, i.e., creating a body of information  
            on the causes of child deaths to help prevent such tragedies.   
            Increased transparency may also enhance the public's trust in  
            local child death review.

          Finally, as the author stated, "Some child death review teams  
            create elaborate, comprehensive reports, while other child  
            death review teams do not report anything at all.  Because of  
            the wide discrepancy of reporting, the statewide council  
            cannot get a full picture of what is occurring statewide.   
            While all child death review teams are coming to important  
            conclusions about local child fatalities, not all of the  
            review teams are communicating the information to the public,  
            which contradicts the basic premise for having them.  How can  
            child death review teams reduce future preventable child  
            deaths if no one knows that child death review teams do?"   
            This bill, by mandating child death review teams, would  
            certainly increase the information available to counties and  
            the public.

          3)Argument in Support:  According to the Sierra Health  
            Foundation, "In 2009, Sacramento County Child Death Review  
            Team found that in Sacramento County African American children  
            die at twice the rate of other children. Appropriately, this  
            news was cause for considerable alarm. Perhaps even more  
            disturbing was the recognition that a significant disparity in  
            African American child death rates has persisted in the county  
            for 20 consecutive years. The revelation of this long term  
            trend and the underwhelming response it previously generated  
            served as a call to action for Sacramento County's African  
            American community, and for all Sacramentans who care about  
            the health and well-being of all children. 








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            "We are not reacting to a single fatality, as devastating as  
            that is. This data has allowed us to analyze child mortality  
            rates and causes over time which revealed that child mortality  
            in Sacramento is about more than improving child welfare or  
            reducing violence in communities. In short, interventions  
            beyond child protective services and law enforcements were  
            needed. This would not be the case without the data provided  
            by the Child Death Review Team. Consequently, we have been  
            able to identify six focus neighborhoods with the highest  
            level of disproportionality and the four leading causes of  
            those deaths, which include infant sleep-related deaths,  
            perinatal conditions, child abuse and neglect homicides and  
            third-party homicides. Additionally, we have been able to  
            create strategic and implementation plans with specific steps  
            to reduce the African American child death rate 10-20% by  
            2020. And despite the fact that data shows the alarming  
            disparity impacting African American children and families, we  
            are consciously focused on developing responses that support  
            the safety and well-being of all children. 

            "Requiring each county to have an active child death review  
            team will create uniformity across the state; with accurate  
            data this information could be used to create public awareness  
            campaigns and reduce the number of child deaths much like our  
            efforts here in Sacramento County."

          4)Related Legislation:  AB 2083 (Chu) would authorize the  
            voluntary disclosure of specified information, including  
            mental health records, criminal history information, and child  
            abuse reports, by an individual or agency to an interagency  
            child death review team.  AB 2083 is pending hearing in this  
            committee.

          5)Prior Legislation:  

             a)   SB 39 (Migden), Chapter 468, Statutes of 2007, required  
               that juvenile case files that pertain to any child who died  
               as the result of child abuse or neglect shall be released  
               to the public, subject to certain limitations set forth in  
               the bill. The bill would also add specified attorneys to  
               the persons allowed access to a juvenile case file.








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             b)   AB 1668 (Bowen), Chapter 813, Statutes of 2006, provided  
               that interagency child death review team records that are  
               exempt from disclosure to third parties pursuant to state  
               or federal law remain exempt from disclosure when they are  
               in the possession of a child death review team; provides  
               confidentiality provisions for child death review teams;  
               and provided that each child death review team shall  
               annually make available to the public findings, conclusions  
               and recommendations of the team, including aggregate  
               statistical data on the incidences and causes of child  
               death.

             c)   SB 525 (Polanco), Chapter 1012, Statutes of 1999, added  
               more state and private entities to the members of the  
               California State Child Death Review Council, specified  
               additional duties for the council and the Department of  
               Justice in connection with gathering and tracking  
               information regarding child deaths from abuse or neglect,  
               and specified additional duties for the State Department of  
               Health Services in connection with tracking child abuse  
               information in specified state data systems.

             d)   AB 4585 (Polanco), Chapter 1580, Statutes of 1988,  
               authorized counties to establish interagency child death  
               teams and autopsy protocol.

          REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION:   

          Support:
          
          Sierra Health Foundation

          Opposition: 
          
          None
           
           Analysis Prepared  
          by:              Matt Dean / PUB. S. / (916) 319-3744











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