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Dying Too Young: What agencies do to fight child deaths

Oklahoman Modified: March 28, 2009 at 2:01 pm •  Published: March 27, 2009
Here is some of what different state agencies do to prevent child deaths:

Health Department

The largest prevention program at this agency is Children First. Public health nurses visit with low-income, first-time mothers in their homes. Many are single. The nurse helps a mother monitor her own pregnancy and teaches skills to care for the baby after birth. Help is available up to when the child turns 2. The program also can help a mother get job training, childcare and better housing.

Department of Human Services

Workers investigated abuse and neglect allegations regarding 61,327 children last fiscal year. The agency provides shelters and foster care for victims. When appropriate, it helps reunite families after problems are addressed. More than 1,400 children in foster care were adopted into families last fiscal year.

Officials say DHS also aggressively addresses poverty, which can lead to child abuse or neglect. Officials say they have nearly tripled in the last decade the rate child support is regularly paid to custodial parents. They are above the national average in getting food stamps to those eligible. They also have expanded the number of children who have access to health care through a program known as SoonerCare.

Office of Juvenile Affairs

It created a public service announcement last year about the importance of gun safety. It offers free gun locks at its Oklahoma City offices.

Commission on Children and Youth

This oversight agency investigates complaints about the children service system. It can intervene in children's cases where the system may not have been responding efficiently and appropriately to protect children from alleged perpetrators.

It also recommends policy and procedural changes to other agencies to help eliminate breakdowns in the system.

It visits all of the state's children's residential facilities, including shelters and youth detention centers, to check on safety and quality-of-life issues.

Child Death Review Board

This group of state officials reviews the circumstances behind child deaths and near deaths in Oklahoma.

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Phone numbers and Web sites :

- Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline — (800) 522-3511

- Heartline Crisis Helpline — (800) SUICIDE

- SAFELINE — (800) 522-SAFE

- TEENLINE — (800) 522-TEEN

- Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs — (405) 530-2800

- Oklahoma SAFE KIDS Coalition — (405) 271-5695

- Oklahoma Health Department — (405) 271-5600

- Oklahoma Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault — (405) 524-0700

- Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth — (405) 606-4900 or

- Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services — (405) 522-3908

- Oklahoma Department of Human Services — (405) 521-3646

Child deaths: 2006-07 :

Child deaths in 2006 and 2007 investigated by Oklahoma's chief medical examiner's office. The medical examiner's office does not review every child's death.

Total 2006 child deaths investigated: 578

Natural causes: 297

Accidents: 155

Unknown: 79

Homicides: 31

Suicides: 16

Total 2007 child deaths investigated: 594

Natural causes: 317

Accidents: 149

Unknown: 83

Homicides: 31

Suicides: 14


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