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    Panel wants wider scope to review all child deaths

    ©Associated Press
    June 20, 2002

    TAMPA -- A little-known state panel that reviews investigations into child abuse deaths wants to expand its scope to include all deaths of children in Florida.

    The Florida Child Abuse Death Review Committee meets every two months to pore over reports and make recommendations that could help prevent future deaths of youngsters deemed to have been victims of abuse or neglect.

    The 21-member board, formed in 1999, believes it could be more helpful if the Legislature gives it authority to examine all deaths of all children under age 18.

    "There is not one comprehensive, cohesive way to pull together all this information about kids and what happens to kids," said Dr. Michael L. Haney, director of Children's Medical Services for the Department of Health.

    "If it's not an abusive situation or if it's just truly an accident, then law enforcement may have a report, a physician could have a report or the medical examiner could have a report. But there's no entity that's pulling that information together and saying: "What can we do to prevent this?' "

    Although not naming her, Haney cited the case of a 2-month-old Pasco County girl, Kristy Mari DeRosa, who suffocated while she slept with her father. Paul DeRosa admitted having a couple of drinks before lying down with the baby, who died March 31, 2001.

    While the review team can document how many infants die while sleeping with parents, siblings or others when abuse is determined to be a factor, no data are available on the number of youngsters who die accidentally when someone rolls over and suffocates them.

    Dr. Michael Bell, chairman of the review team and Broward County's deputy chief medical examiner, joined the rest of the panel in support for a public awareness campaign planned by the Department of Children and Families on preventing such suffocations.

    The death review board is limited to making recommendations that are included in an annual report to the Legislature.

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