Q&A: Information about child deaths

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From the Daily Journal (Franklin):

Q: What information is available when a child dies in questionable circumstances?

A: IC 31-33-18-1.5 opens to public scrutiny records concerning the death or near fatality of children that appear to be the result of abuse, abandonment or neglect.

The records involved can belong to the Department of Child Services, a county office and a local or state child fatality review team.

The copies first must be screened by the county court with juvenile jurisdiction to redact certain identifying information.

The statute provides that the data and information disclosed under this section must include:

• A summary of the report of abuse or neglect and a factual description of the contents of the report.

• The date of birth and gender of the child.

• The cause of the fatality or near fatality if the cause has been determined.

• Whether the Depart­ment of Child Services had any contact with the child or the suspected perpetrator before the fatality or near fatality.

If there was contact, the following information should be made available:

• The frequency of the contact before the death or near death and the date of last contact before the death or near death.

• A summary of the status of the child’s case at the time of the death or near fatality and whether the case had been closed by the Department of Child Services.

Contact Steve Key, HSPA executive director and general counsel, with media law questions at skey@hspa.com or (317) 624-4427.

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