Child Fatality Review team

Established in 1994 in advance of legislation supporting child fatality review teams in Texas, the Harris County Child Fatality Review Team (HCCFRT) was organized to provide the framework for a multidisciplinary, multi-agency workgroup (including: clinicians, social workers, law enforcement, Child Protective Services and the Medical Examiner’s Office) that reviews child deaths in Harris County utilizing the public health model of identification/definition of the problem, identifying risk and protective factors, developing and testing prevention strategies and assuring adoption through:

  • providing assistance, direction and coordination to investigations of child deaths;
  • promoting cooperation, communication and coordination among agencies involved in responding to child fatalities;
  • developing an understanding of the causes and incidence of child deaths in the county or counties in which the team is located;
  • recommending changes to agencies, through the agency's representative member, that will reduce the number of preventable child deaths; and
  • advising the state committee on changes to law, policy or practice that will assist the team and the agencies represented on the team in fulfilling their duties.

The team operated from 1994 until 2011 under the collaboration between the City of Houston and Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services reviewing cases and making recommendations both locally and to the State CFRT. Position papers from the State CFRT from data provided by local teams include Safe Sleep for Infants; Motor Vehicle Safety for Infants and Children; Water Safety; Child Suicide; Prevention of Substance Abuse; Addressing Preventable Child Abuse and Neglect.

Community impact

After budget cuts in 2011 left the public sector without a mechanism for reviewing child deaths, a collaboration between the Texas Children’s Health Plan and the Texas Children’s Trauma Program provided funding for this much-needed service.

Since this position moved to Texas Children’s Hospital, the HCCFRT has:

  • Reviewed 100% of non-natural child deaths (including homicide, suicide and accident) and SIDS deaths;
  • Drafted a position paper on Safe Sleep for Infants, Motor Vehicle Safety for Infants and Children, Water Safety, Child Suicide, Prevention of Substance Abuse and Addressing Preventable Child Abuse and Neglect;
  • Partnered with local agencies for the Annual April Pools Day media event to raise awareness of drowning prevention;
  • Collaborated with numerous agencies to provide a multi-agency child abuse investigation course for law enforcement, CPS workers, hospitals, and social workers.
  • Provided data for research on child deaths and identified potential improvements in the trauma system.