Rhode Island’s Office of the Child Advocate has released a disturbing report about the deaths of three infants, two of them in state care. The report found that at least two of the children’s deaths could have been prevented, and it points to serious concerns about safety for children in state care.
For example, the report found emergency foster placements with unlicensed family members who faced criminal charges, or who may have perpetrated abuse in multiple families. In one case, the infant had no crib for two months and the foster mother showed signs of domestic abuse, yet the report found the State Department of Children Youth and Families failed to fully investigate.
Of the deaths reviewed in the report, autopsy reports were available for just one infant, who was found to have died of asphyxia due to unsafe sleeping conditions. The report said based on preliminary assessments, "no foul play" had been determined in any of the cases.
In two of the cases, preliminary findings suggested "compromised sleep conditions."
"These incidents appear to be tragic accidents that could likely have been avoided," the report concluded.
In the third case, the child was taken to the emergency room after several days of cold-like systems and later went into respiratory failure.
All of the infants were just six and seven months old.
Echoing earlier reports about DCYF , the report cited high caseloads for DCYF workers and a lack of licensed foster families among the problems that need correcting. The report also suggested that DCYF review safety procedures and oversight, especially of unlicensed foster families.
In general, the report faults DCYF for failing to connect the dots after multiple, credible reports that should have raised red flags.
"There needs to be particular care and scrutiny in instances where multiple complaints are similar in nature and involve behaviors we know to place infants at risk of harm," the report said.