BY KARISSA MILLER
Nineteen children died in Iredell County in 2020.
The Iredell County Child Fatality Prevention Team (CFPT) is working to ensure that everything possible is being done to protect the lives of young people. The purpose of the local CFPTs is to identify deficiencies in the delivery of services to children and families by public agencies; make and carry out recommendations for changes that will prevent future child deaths; and promote understanding of the causes of child deaths.
Laura Johnson, who chairs the committee, met with the Iredell County Board of Commissioners earlier this week present the CFPT’s annual prevention report.
After reviewing the 19 deaths of children under the age of 18 in 2020, the team identified one system problem — young children were exposed to blunt trauma to the head or chest due to a car seat or a problem with the car seat or not being restrained at all.
The team is already working to remedy that.
“Through a grant, we needed to educate more on the proper use of child passenger safety seat installation,” Johnson said. “So we have the Iredell County Partnership for Young Children and Iredell County Health Department who went through strenuous training to become a child safety seat technician.”
With the grant money, CFPT purchased nine car seats that can be used throughout a child’s early growth and development. These seats were made available for foster parents so that they didn’t have to purchase a new or separate car seat as the child develops.
Education pieces were also put into place as well as a foster parent sign off that they will follow the guidelines for using the child safety seat, Johnson said.
She said the staff of the medical examiner’s office was impressed with their creative ideas and solution.
Chairman James Mallory commended the CFPT team for their expertise and said the proper use of child safety seats is a strategy that everyone with a child or a grandchild can be part of.
CFPT is also working to reduce the number of deaths by suicide by young people.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the team was working on suicide prevention with school age children through an essay project. Johnson said that they hope to restore those efforts now that health restrictions have eased.
Session Law 2020-7 was passed by the N.C. General Assembly to require schools to implement a school-based mental health plan that includes a mental health training program and suicide risk referral protocol.
Commissioner Gene Houpe asked if there were resources or materials readily available for grandparents and other caretakers to educate them about the signs of mental health issues result in death by suicide.
“Suicide is a bigger problem than they realize with our kids. I don’t want to see these efforts relaxed,” Houpe said.
Johnson said that there are many barriers to children being willing to pick up that kind of information.
“It’s a matter of, is that person willing to take that step and pick that up?” Johnson said. “A lot of people are in denial and don’t want to think that is going to happen to the child they are caring for.”