New York, NY – Today, Chet Hewitt, President and CEO, Sierra Health Foundation Center for Health Program Management and Co-chair, Steering Committee on Reduction of African American Child Deaths (RAACD), testified before the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Families (CECANF) in a panel discussion on disproportionality of child deaths, particularly about the work in Sacramento County to develop a comprehensive, data-informed approach.  

Hewitt also provided recommendations including moving upstream by a stronger focus on early intervention, increasing focus on family development, moving the system away from its residual focus – a focus on crisis intervention – to one that emphasizes family development, strengthening data collection and using validated instruments and tool to promote objective decision making.

In June, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors voted in favor of $1.5 million annually for five years in support of the RAACD’s strategic plan, African American Children Matter: What We Must Do Now. The full strategic plan can be found here. This is in addition to commitments made by the County’s First Five Commission and its child welfare and probation department.The Steering Committee is now working with county staff and community members on the implementation plan. 

Tragically, in Sacramento County, for the past 20 years, African American children die at two times the rate of other children. In 2013, following the Blue Ribbon Commission report, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors established the Steering Committee RAACD, a community-driven body, to reduce deaths among African American children by between 10 percent and 20 percent by 2020. RAACD is funded by the County of Sacramento and First 5 Sacramento, and is managed by the Center for Health Program Management. Learn more on the RAACD webpage and the CECANF website.

Below are excerpts from the testimony as prepared:

“The data [from the Child Death Review Team] provided evidence that interventions that worked for other children and families in Sacramento County were having a less robust effect than anticipated in the African American community – specifically, the disproportionately rate had not been effected…

“The data used by both the [Blue Ribbon] Commission and Steering Committee helped identify patterns that confirmed our assumption that the disproportionate rate at which African American child fatalities occur is much more than child welfare or a public safety problem. For example, data showed that the four causes of child death with the greatest disproportionality for African American children are third party homicides (someone other than the child’s caregiver; African American children = 32% of child fatalities), child abuse and neglect homicides (African American children = 30% of child fatalities), infant sleep-related deaths (African American children = 32% child fatalities) and perinatal conditions (African American children = 25% child fatalities). In addition, the data showed that 80% of all African American child fatalities in these categories occur in six Sacramento County neighborhoods…

“The Child Death Review Team data was then compared to data from the Healthy Sacramento Coalition’s Community Health Needs Assessment and Sacramento’s 2012 County Health Profile, which found that these six neighborhoods share many of the same risk factors. Compared to Sacramento County as a whole, the six neighborhoods had higher rates of emergency room visits for violence, (27 visits/10,000 in the county, between 32-67 visits/10,000 in these neighborhoods), and at least twice as many its residents are without a high school diploma (12% in the County; 27% to 44% of residents in the 6 neighborhoods). Moreover, child fatalities in these communities had a higher number of risk factors including but not limited to childhood trauma, poverty, and poor school performance and attendance…

“And in several of these communities the level of disparity by percentage is considerably higher, some of which is to be expected, then the countywide African American percentage. For example, in the Meadowview/Valley High neighborhood, African American children make up 16% of the child population but accounted for 41% of the child deaths in the four categories over the 20 year period; In Arden Arcade neighborhood, African American children are 8% of the child population but account for 35% of child fatalities in the four categories. And in Oak Park, African American children are 9% of the child population and account for 27% of child fatalities…

“In the strategic plan produced by the Steering Committee, we’ve identified priority outcomes and core activities that set the stage for pursuing our target outcome of a 20% reduction over 5 years. Put succinctly, we’ve focused our strategic planning effort on the creation of a conceptual framework that recognizes the centrality of the impact safe, supportive and nurturing families and communities have on child safety, takes important steps to leverage untapped community assets, and begins to reframe the way child and/or family-serving-systems connect with each other and the families and communities they serve…

“The framework is explicit about the following fundamental key principles: place matters to a child’s health, policy change is necessary for system transformation, what you measure and report matters, collaboration across child and family serving systems is essential, and community, family and youth engagement will rest at the center of our work. We believe the framework – which we provided to you, is sufficiently universal to benefit all children and families in Sacramento County over the long term, yet begins its implementation by being specifically targeted on the conditions that create poor health outcomes and disproportionate death rates for African American children…

“To accomplish its broad agenda, the Steering Committee is now working with Sacramento County’s Chief Executive’s Office to establish an Interagency Children’s Policy Council which will bring together a broader contingent of public agency institutions leaders to learn, think, plan and act in ways that enhance their capacity to promote child and family well-being including changes in department strategy, culture, and community relations…

“We are also in the process of designing a Technical Assistance Resource Center which will work at the center of our resident and community capacity and engagement effort to oversee the development, launch and integration of programs and resources at a grass-roots level in the six target communities. Our goal is to improve access to an expanded range of family strengthening services offered to families and change the perception of community residents from ‘these people/systems are coming for me’ to ‘these people/systems can help me…’

“When we reflect on the progress that has been made, and what factors have made this effort successful, it comes down to three things: using the data that we have, community mobilization and multisector collaboration. We believe that our ability to end 20 years of disproportionate African American child death will only be possible if the public agencies and community partners who have been our allies have confidence that we understand and are organized for success…”

###

The Center for Health Program Management works to reduce health disparities in underserved communities. With commitment, creativity and collaboration, the Center promotes efforts to eradicate health inequities across California. www.shfcenter.org

Kari (Lacosta) Ida |  Director of Public Affairs and Communications
Sierra Health Foundation
1321 Garden Highway  |  Sacramento, CA 95833
916-922-4755 x3332  

kida@sierrahealth.orgwww.sierrahealth.org

Similar Posts