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December 17, 2019

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

JEFFERSON CITY, MO — A key finding of the Department of Social Services’ (DSS) special report, “"Eliminating Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities in Missouri," reveals sleep-related deaths remain the leading cause of deaths for Missouri infants and the leading cause of child maltreatment related to deaths.

Members of the Child Fatality Review Panel Subcommittee on Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities (CFRP-SCANF) examined and analyzed the deaths of 56 children in 2014 that county Child Fatality Review Panels had determined were due to child abuse or neglect. Of those deaths, 24 (44 percent) were attributed to an unsafe sleep environment. The Department is currently reviewing recommendations for addressing unsafe sleep deaths, along with other issues, and pursuing actions to enhance the safety of Missouri children.

“Most Missourians simply do not know how many infants die due to unsafe sleep and how these tragic deaths could have been easily prevented,” said Jennifer Tidball, Acting Director, Department of Social Services. “This report is an important tool for DSS, our child welfare partners, communities, and families as we try to understand contributing factors and work together to keep children safe and reduce child abuse and neglect deaths in the state.”

The CFRP-SCANF used data and case discussions to identify important trends, opportunities to strengthen Missouri’s approach to understanding why and how children in Missouri die from child abuse and neglect, and actions that can prevent future deaths. “The members of the Subcommittee have created an invaluable review and evaluation that examines how health care, child welfare, social services, and justice systems did or did not support families in accessing and utilizing critical care services to help meet their needs,” said Tidball. “Each of us play an important role in keeping kids safe and we need to be aware of what we can to prevent the death of one more child. My hope is for every parent and caregiver to always use safe-sleep practices so more Missouri infants will reach their first birthday.”

The mission of the Department of Social Services is to lead the nation in building the capacity of individuals, families and communities to secure and sustain healthy, safe, and productive lives. Visit to learn more about the Department of Social Services and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


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Rebecca Woelfel