Background: Child death review (CDR) is a mechanism to more accurately describe the causes and circumstances of death among children. The number of states performing CDR has more than doubled since 1992, but little is known about the characteristics of these programs. The purpose of this study was to describe the current status of CDR in the United States and to document variability in program purpose, scope, organization, and process.
Methods: Investigators administered a written survey to CDR program representatives from 50 states and the District of Columbia (DC), followed by a telephone interview.
Results: All 50 states and DC participated; 48 states and DC have an active CDR program. A total of 94% of programs agreed that identifying the cause of and preventing future deaths are important purposes of CDR. Assistance with child maltreatment prosecution was cited as an important purpose by only 13 states (27%). Twenty-two states (45%) review deaths from all causes, while six states (12%) review only deaths due to child maltreatment. CDR legislation exists in 33 states. Fifty-three percent of the CDR programs were implemented since 1996, and 59% report no or inadequate funding. CDR contributes to the death investigation process in seven states (14%), but the majority (59%) of reviews are retrospective, occurring months to years after the child's death.
Conclusions: CDR programs in the United States share commonalities in purpose and scope. Without national leadership, however, the wide variation in organization and process threatens to limit CDR effectiveness.