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May 17, 2021

Report identifies majority of child abuse and neglect fatalities are sleep-related

JEFFERSON CITY, MO - The 2021 Eliminating Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities in Missouri report found sleep related deaths remained a leading cause of death for Missouri infants and the leading cause of child maltreatment related deaths. The Child Fatality Review Panel Subcommittee on Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities (CFRP-SCANF) produced the report documenting their in-depth retrospective review examining the 2015 deaths a local county Child Fatality Review Panel determined were related to child abuse or neglect. Fifty-eight child deaths were included in the report’s analysis and of those deaths, 18 deaths or 32 percent were attributed to an unsafe sleep environment. The 2019 report that examined 2014 deaths related to child abuse or neglect revealed the same trend.

“The number of preventable infant deaths from unsafe sleep is astonishing and truly tragic, said Jennifer Tidball, Acting Director, Department of Social Services. “I sincerely appreciate the efforts of the Child Fatality Review Panel Subcommittee on Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities to review and analyze the data and to make recommendations. The Department of Social Services, our community partners, and every Missourian must come to together to understand ways we can help prevent child deaths from abuse and neglect and work as a focused and united front to ensure more children survive childhood.”

The CFRP-SCANF identified multiple factors that contribute to the child maltreatment fatalities as well as the multiple levels of prevention from a systems, policy, community and services perspective that could keep children safe. The report makes the following recommendations to prevent future child deaths from abuse and neglect:

  • Create a culture of safe sleep
  • Increase the functionality of county and state Child Fatality Review Panels
  • Improve mandated reporters’ ability to recognize and respond to suspected child maltreatment
  • Increase and improve interagency collaboration in cases with suspected child maltreatment
  • Educate citizens on how to prevent or address scenarios that increase child death risk
  • Improve provision of resources to high risk and/or high needs families
  • Improve systemic response to child deaths

The Department of Social Services strongly encourages anyone who suspects child abuse or neglect to call the toll-free hotline at 1-800-392-3738. The Missouri Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline is answered 24-hours a day, every day, all year round. Callers can report anonymously.

The mission of the Department of Social Services is to empower Missourians to live safe, healthy, and productive lives. Visit and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


Media Contact

Rebecca Woelfel