Program Contact

Sara Hortenstine
State Child Death Review Board
120 SW 10th Ave. 2nd Floor
Topeka, Kansas 66612
Phone: 785-296-7970
Fax: 785-296-7796


Program Description

The State Child Death Review Board (SCDRB) was created by the Kansas Legislature in 1992 and is administered by the Kansas Attorney General’s Office. The SCDRB is a ten-member multi-disciplinary agency whose appointments are defined by statute, K.S.A. Supp. 22a-243 et seq. There are two staff persons within the office. The SCDRB serves as one of the State’s Citizen Review Panels.

Kansas has one SCDRB which is mandated by state law. The SCDRB also serves as a member of:

  • Midwest Regional Child Death Review (CDR) Coalition
  • National Child Death Review Panel
  • Safe Kids Kansas
  • CAPTA-Intake to Petition
  • CAPTA-Custody to Transition
  • Kansas Maternal Child Health Coalition
  • Prescription Drug Policy Academy Workgroup

State Team Chairperson: Melissa Johnson, JD, Assistant Attorney General.

The SCDRB meets monthly to examine the circumstances surrounding the deaths of all Kansas children aged birth through 17 years, as well as children who are not residents but die in the state. Typically the SCDRB is alerted of a death when they receive birth/death certificates from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment Vital Statistics Department. The SCDRB has a working relationship with other state vital statistics departments to receive death certificates as needed when a Kansas child passes away in another state.

To ensure a coordinated response that fully addresses all systemic concerns surrounding child fatality cases, the Kansas Legislature granted the SCDRB authority to obtain all relevant records. K.S.A. 22a-244(b) provides that the Board shall have access to any necessary records related to the child. All records provided to the Board remain confidential. When all information has been obtained, a case is assigned to a SCDRB member who is responsible for reviewing the information and reporting the findings to the entire Board during the monthly meeting. A determination of true cause and preventability is made during the meeting.

The purpose of the SCDRB is to determine the number of Kansas children who die annually, describe trends and patterns of child deaths, identify risk factors, improve information gathering and communication among agencies, and develop prevention strategies in order to lower the number of child deaths.

The SCDRB determines the number of children who die, how they died, and reports annually on what the data shows.

Annual Report
Kansas produces an annual report that includes its findings, recommendations for improving child protection, and suggestions for modifying statutes, rules, regulations, policies, and procedures. The Board is required to provide the annual report to the Kansas Legislature and the Governor.

Prevention Initiatives
CDR efforts have influenced policy change and findings have motivated prevention activities including:

  • A focus on motor vehicle crashes — which is the leading cause of unintentional injury deaths for Kansas children;
  • An increase in fines for non-compliance with child passenger safety laws;
  • More adherence to enforcing the child safety restraint law that requires youth younger than 18 seated anywhere in the vehicle to use age appropriate safety restraint systems;
  • Improving women’s preconception health to lower infant mortality
  • Strengthening partnerships for public education purposes
  • Suicide Prevention training in Kansas schools
  • Statewide training for Law Enforcement, Coroners, Pathologists, and Child Protection Workers

The SCDRB has protocols for meetings, confidentiality, and child/infant death investigations.

Kansas provides training as needed.

Last Updated: February 2018