Recent Surge in Child Fatalities Prompts State Leaders to Discuss Preventative Measures

In light of a concerning uptick in child fatalities and near fatalities (14 children have died in Rhode Island already this year), state leaders convened on Monday, April 15, to address the urgent need for preventative services and community support systems aimed at safeguarding the well-being of all children.

Ashley Deckert, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth & Families (DCYF), expressed deep concern over the recent surge in reports of child near fatalities and fatalities within the state. She emphasized the necessity of disseminating prevention messages to all Rhode Island families to educate them on ensuring the safety of their children.

State officials highlighted various services and supports available to the community, including:

  • Promotion of safe sleep practices and support mechanisms.
  • Strategies to prevent accidental youth poisonings.
  • Resources for victims of domestic violence.
  • Referral services for behavioral health concerns.
  • Community-based services catering to a wide range of needs.

Kimberly Merolla-Brito, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Human Services, stressed the importance of fostering broad awareness and understanding of available resources across agencies and throughout the community. She emphasized that every individual plays a vital role in ensuring the safety and well-being of Rhode Island’s youngest residents.

Seema Dixit, Deputy Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, underscored the availability of information and free resources for parents and caregivers statewide, acknowledging the challenges of parenthood and the importance of seeking assistance when needed.

Key initiatives and support services highlighted during the discussion included:

Support and Response Unit (SRU): Launched by DCYF in September 2020, the SRU aims to better connect families and their children to support services. By identifying families’ specific needs, the SRU provides necessary assistance to help families thrive, offering assessments, short-term services, and local resources.

Family Care Community Partnerships (FCCPs): Serving as DCYF’s primary prevention resource, FCCPs collaborate with families and communities to promote healthy environments for children. These partnerships aim to address behavioral and emotional challenges faced by children, providing a range of community-based services to enhance family well-being.

Family Home Visiting Supports: Coordinated by the Rhode Island Department of Health, these free visiting supports offer guidance and assistance to families expecting or with young children, focusing on promoting healthy development and addressing immediate needs.

Safe Sleep Supports: Rhode Island promotes safe sleep practices to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and accidental suffocation during sleep.

Preventing Youth Poisonings: Efforts are underway to raise awareness of the dangers posed by prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, and other substances to children and youth.

Domestic Violence Supports: Resources are available for Rhode Islanders experiencing domestic violence, including helplines and support services. The number is r 1-800-494-8100.

Child Abuse Prevention: Rhode Island mandates reporting of suspected child abuse or neglect, with a dedicated hotline available 24/7 for reporting concerns. The number is 1-800-RI-CHILD (1-800-742-4453). All calls are recorded. You may call anonymously

Behavioral Health Support: Various services, including KidsLink and the new 988 crisis lifeline (1-855-543-5465), offer support for children and youth experiencing mental health challenges.

Child Care Support: Programs like the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) aim to subsidize childcare costs for eligible families, promoting self-sufficiency and workforce participation.

Go to to learn more about any of these services.




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