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Local Advocacy Center Looking To Stop Preventable Child Death

When a child dies, many government agencies get involved. But sometimes they do not work together. Now that will change in Ontario County, where prevention of child deaths is the goal.
The Child Advocacy Center of the Finger Lakes has worked to prevent child abuse in Ontario County since 2008. Now it is going one step further to try to prevent the death of any child.

Most parents want to keep their children safe at any cost. But last year in Ontario County, five children and nine infants died. Some of those deaths might have been prevented.

"The majority is in the infant mortality and it's unexplained or SIDS is what we are seeing the highest number," Assistant District Attorney Jim Ritts said.

So now Ontario County will have a child fatality review team. Monroe County has had one for a number of years. More than a dozen agencies will work to investigate the why.

"Everybody looked at it in a different way and it led to jumping to a lot of conclusions and we want to avoid that," center director Jennifer Brownell said. "We want to make sure we do these investigations properly the right way and get it right."

New York State awarded the Child Advocacy Center a $48,000 grant. In addition to forming the team, it will also allow the center to employ their family outreach coordinator full-time.

"Everyone is so dedicated and helping children but there is always more we can be trained on, more we can understand of each other's roles so that we can work more cohesively," Brownell said.

The team will meet four times a year, whether or not there is a death. The ultimate goal is prevention.

"The death of a child is particularly tragic, and if we can get out and prevent those or work towards preventing those or make people more aware of how to prevent those, I think it will help everybody," Ritts said.

The Child Advocacy Center is involved in every aspect of child abuse cases and this will further their role.
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