Program Contact

Margaret Bissell
Director, Child Fatality Review and Prevention
New York State Office of Children and Family Services
Child Welfare and Community Services
52 Washington Street
Room 330N
Rensselaer, NY 12144-2834
Phone: (518) 473-6664


Program Description


In 1999, legislation was enacted authorizing the creation of local or regional child fatality review teams in New York. The New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) is the state agency responsible for various administrative functions relating to this program.

New York State Social Services Law Section 422-b

Chapter 136 of the Laws of 1999

Chapter Law 485 of the Laws of 2006
New York State Social Service Law allows a child fatality review team (CFRT) to be established at a local or regional level, with the approval of OCFS. The purpose of the CFRT is to review the death of any child whose care and custody or custody and guardianship has been transferred to an authorized agency, any child for whom child protective services has an open case, any child for whom the local department of social services has an open preventive services case, and in the case of a report made to the New York Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment involving the death of any child. A CFRT may also investigate any unexplained or unexpected death of any child under the age of eighteen.

A CFRT must include, but is not limited to, representatives from the local Child Protective Service, OCFS, county department of health, or, should the locality not have a county department of health, the local health commissioner or his or her designee or the local public health director or his or her designee, Office of the Medical Examiner, or, should the locality not have a medical examiner, Office of the Coroner, Office of the District Attorney, Office of the County Attorney, local and state law enforcement, Emergency Medical Services and a pediatrician or comparable medical professional, preferably with expertise in the area of child abuse and maltreatment or forensic pediatrics. A CFRT may also include representatives from local departments of social services, mental health agencies, domestic violence agencies substance abuse programs, hospitals, local schools and the Family Court.

A CFRT approved by OCFS has access to all records, except those protected by statutory privilege, within twenty-one days of receipt of request. Such access includes access to pending, indicated and unfounded reports of child abuse or maltreatment. Members of a CFRT, persons attending a meeting of a local or regional fatality review team, and persons who present information to a local or regional fatality review team have immunity from civil and criminal liability for all reasonable and good faith actions taken pursuant to this law, and may not be questioned in any civil or criminal proceeding regarding any opinions formed as a result of a meeting of the CFRT. A CRFT may exercise the same authority as OCFS with regard to the preparation of a child fatality report.

All meetings conducted and all reports and records made and maintained, and books and papers obtained, by a CFRT are confidential and not open to the general public except by court order and except for an annual report or a fatality report, if the team chooses to complete such a report. A CFRT may not redisclose confidential information, except where otherwise authorized by statute.

New York has local and regional review teams. There is no state level advisory committee.

Local Teams:
New York has local teams. The state level Regional Offices of OCFS must be one of the members of each CFRT. The City of New York is developing a review process.

Teams review cases involving children age 17 and younger. Deaths are reviewed due to SIDS, homicides, suicides and abuse/neglect. Additionally, cases that had involvement with OCFS and deaths of children in foster care are reviewed.

The purpose of the New York child fatality review process is to prevent future deaths, to assist in the investigative process and improve the social services system.

Data collected for the review process includes information from databases on child maltreatment and foster care children.

Annual Report
An annual report is submitted to the Governor and legislature. It includes a section on recommendations directed at the state’s child advocacy system, not exclusively child fatality review.

Prevention Initiatives
In 2016, OCFS began the Sleep Environment Survey. The 4-month long survey is taken online or over the phone by new parents who delivered children in four pilot hospitals in NYS. The data is providing valuable information on Safe Sleep practices in hospitals.

To increase the use of safe sleep practices, OCFS developed a Safe Sleep kit. The kit is being used as part of the Sleep Environment Survey and is provided to community organizations upon request to increase Safe Sleep practice and awareness. The kit includes:

In 2012, OCFS revised their templates for standard protocols and guidelines for the approval and certification of the 18 funded CFRTs in New York State.

An annual event for CFRT Coordinators was introduced in planned 2014.

Last Updated: January 2017