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Fragile lives, fragmented systems: Strengthening supports for vulnerable infants: Aggregate review of 21 infant deaths

British Columbia Representative for Children and Youth – 2011

A review of infant deaths (age two and under) in British Columbia, Canada. All of the infants in the study were from families involved with the child welfare system. Family risk factors include aboriginal status, family history of intergenerational trauma and child abuse/neglect, domestic violence issues, and mental health problems. Sixteen of the twenty one families had substance abuse issues in the immediate family; fifteen of the twenty one had a history of substance abuse in previous generations. Other risk factors include poverty and inadequate housing. Most of the infant deaths were attributed to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), mainly due to bed sharing. Report elaborates on study data and risk factors, and includes several individual case studies. Discusses the public health challenges associated with chronic child poverty and inadequate housing, particularly among the Native population. Recommends development of a child poverty plan, with specific strategies for Native children and families. Notes the need for improved prenatal public health care, and recommends better support for vulnerable pregnant women. Also recommends improved postnatal service provision, including alcohol and drug treatment and respite care. Includes recommendations for effective public health nursing practice, and discusses the importance of educating parents on safe sleeping environments to prevent SIDS. Discusses the need for improved case review and information sharing among child welfare professionals.