Special Agent in Charge of Child Fatality Review
Georgia Bureau of Investigation
Child Fatality Review Unit
3121 Panthersville Road
Decatur, Georgia 30034
Phone: (404) 270-8714
Fax: (404) 270-8720
Georgia’s Child Fatality Review Program (GCFR) was established in 1990 by statute (Section 19-15-1 et seq.). CFR is an independent program currently administered out of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI). The program is funded by state general funds. There are five state-level staff who are responsible for providing training and technical assistance to the local review committees. Local teams have no paid staff.
Georgia has both state and local review teams which are mandated.
The state team is called the Georgia Child Fatality Review Panel (GCFRP). The Panel is comprised of 17 members, which meets quarterly to oversee the county child fatality review process, report to the governor annually on the incidence of child deaths and recommend prevention measures based on the data. Panel members are appointed by the Governor or Lt. Governor, or are ex-officio members as state agency leaders.
Georgia has 159 counties, and each county has its own CFR committee. The local committees have seven mandated agency members that are directed to meet within 30 days of a child’s death, and to submit their findings (i.e. the CFR report form) within 67 days of the death. Local committees are encouraged to invite additional agencies/organizations to the review meeting, as necessary. CFR policy also requires that a prevention advocate be a member of the local committee. The county coroner/medical examiner alerts the district attorney when a death has occurred, who initiates the review. Local committees are also encouraged to meet regularly, even if no deaths have occurred, to develop and review prevention efforts.
Local CFR committees review all injury-related, sleep-related, and unexpected/suspicious deaths to children who are less than 18 years old. Local committees submit their reviews using the National Fatality Review Case Reporting System.
The main purpose of Georgia’s CFR program is to prevent deaths. The mission of CFR is to serve Georgia’s children by promoting more accurate identification and reporting of child fatalities, evaluating the prevalence and circumstances of both child abuse cases and child fatality investigations, and monitoring the implementation and impact of the statewide child injury prevention plan in order to prevent and reduce incidents of child abuse and fatalities in the state.
Standardized data reporting forms are completed for all reviews. Georgia participates in the National CDR Case Reporting System, and joined in 2009. Vital records from the state registrar are referenced as a form of quality assurance making sure that all appropriate deaths are being captured for review. State CFR staff review the accuracy and completeness of the case reports submitted by the local committees, and ensure data quality on an ongoing basis.
An annual report is produced and distributed to the Governor, Lt. Governor, the General Assembly, state child-serving agencies and members of the community. The Annual Report presents a descriptive analysis of the data collected in the previous year, and provides prevention recommendations from the local review committees. It is due on January 1st of each year.
Georgia’s CFR findings have influenced policy changes. Statewide changes have occurred in child protection policy in that all child maltreatment reports of children younger than one require a fully undressed exam by the CPS worker; the state crime lab has made child death autopsies a priority, with state law requiring autopsies for all children younger than seven; state law now requires graduated drivers licensing for teens; and safe sleep messaging is standardized across all state agencies. Many local community changes have occurred as a result of CFR including new traffic calming measures in areas where deaths have occurred, installation of water rescue equipment and usage instructions near natural bodies of water; mandatory emergency defibrillators in public parks where youth sports are played; and creation of an asthma prevention coalition in an area where multiple asthma-related deaths have occurred.
Local teams also have an increased understanding of team member’s roles, better communication and working relationships. Child death investigation teams have been formed to encourage collaboration and communication across multidisciplinary agencies throughout the investigation of a child’s death. Georgia was also selected as one of the first five state participants in the CDC’s SUID Case Registry pilot project, which focused on improving infant death scene investigations, review, and reporting in a multi-disciplinary setting.
Currently there is a policy manual provided by the state CFR staff for the operating procedures of the local CFR committee. The CFR policy manual includes information on death notifications, review meetings, timelines, confidentiality, HIPAA protections and exemptions under the Public Health rule, and reporting procedures for coroners/medical examiners and the CFR chairpersons.
The Georgia CFR Program offers training throughout the state. CFR offers child death investigation training for law enforcement. In addition, all local CFR members are required to receive training annually, state CFR staff travel to various jurisdictions each year. Each training is one full day, and includes workshops on investigation, review, reporting, collaboration, and prevention.
Last Updated: January 2019