Co-bedding Under the Influence: Killing Hamilton County’s Children

Here’s a subject I covered in this month’s issue of our community newsletter. If you are interested in receiving our newsletter, Update, you can sign up at www.hcjfs.org, under the Public tab….

Child abuse is a problem few people will tolerate. There are groups, campaigns, programs, media stories, books and more dedicated to the prevention of child abuse. Every child who dies from child abuse is front-page news.

But there’s a more frequent killer of our community’s children that draws very little attention. Most often the deaths are ruled accidents or undetermined, but the circumstances surrounding them are similar and, in my mind, attribute to the death of innocent children.

I am talking about co-bedding while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

So far this year, at least seven tiny children have died in co-bedding situations. In 2009, according the county’s Family and Children First Council’s Child Fatality Report, one child died of accidental death while co-bedding and four others died “undetermined” deaths in similar situations.

We dissect a lot of the county’s child deaths at our agency, particularly when the family was involved with our Children’s Services Division. I can tell you that a common factor in a lot of co-bedding deaths is that the parent was using alcohol or drugs in the 24 hours previous to the death.

When a parent is under the influence, they sleep more soundly than normal. There is a greater chance of rolling over on a sleeping baby. There is also a greater chance of a baby being placed or moved into a bad position. And, someone in an alcohol or drug-induced state is far less likely to wake up when a baby struggles or cries because they are in danger.

Greater Cincinnati hospitals do a tremendous job of disseminating information to new mothers about the dangers of co-bedding. Help Me Grow agencies visit with some new parents in their homes and discuss the proper way for their children to sleep. The Cincinnati Police Department has special trainings for police officers to recognize improper sleep arrangements and educate parents. Hamilton County Family and Children First Council will help if a family does not have a crib for the newborn.

But I too often find – when our agency is dissecting a tragic co-bedding fatality – that the parent knew the risks. They had received the proper information. They even have a crib in the house. They just did not make a proper choice because they were under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Their goal was to instinctively quiet a crying baby in their arms – but they passed out and, when they woke up, the baby was dead.

We, as a community, cannot tolerate this. Please work to make sure every baby has a chance in life. Encourage parents to make good decisions with clear heads. Too many babies are dying, and no one is noticing.

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Child Support Fact Sheets Now Available in Spanish

Just an FYI: we recently translated several of our Child Support fact sheets into Spanish. This is another in our ongoing efforts to make the agency more accessible.

If you are interested — or know anyone who is interested — they can obtain information on child support in Spanish by visiting the www.hcjfs.org, going to the Child Support section and looking under the Services tab.

Great Day at JFS

Two big events for our agency today were a great success.

First, the Fatherhood Conference with Lighthouse Youth Services and the Ohio Practioner’s Network for Fathers and Families was packed with participants. Reds Hall of Famer Joe Morgan and U.S. Rep. Steve Driehaus provided memorable remarks. Many fathers participated in the educational workshops, and nearly two dozen fathers took advantage of our driver’s license reinstatement offer.

The other event is something I have not talked about yet: Several dozen Hamilton County foster children who accomplished reading goals this summer had their very own party in the park today.

Our Department’s Kids in School Rule! team hosted an appreciation event at Mt. Airy Park for children who read at least one book each month of the summer. The kindergarten through 8th grade students – all participants in a Kids in School Rule! pilot program designed to promote academic success among foster children — were challenged at the beginning of the summer to stay on track with their reading while on break from school. Many met the challenge and celebrated with food, music, fun activities and rewards for their hard work.

Kids in School Rule! is a collaborative effort at 22 participating Cincinnati Public schools to help foster children achieve academic success. The program is expected to result in lower truancy, fewer interruptions in school days for students, more promotions to higher grade levels, more graduates and – ultimately – less substance abuse, crime and other social problems associated with educational failure.

Foster children are at-risk of academic failure because they’ve been abused and neglected and face instability in their home and school life. They often must move to different schools as they await permanent placement and are faced with outside counseling and other obstacles that threaten academic success.

Kids in School Rule! is built upon a spirit of cooperation to maximize resources, implement best practice principles and develop innovative supports and programming that lead to school stability and success for youth in agency care.

The event included pizza, drinks, balloon animals, face painting and a magic show. Gift bags were awarded to the children. The bags include certificates for ice cream, candy, books and Cincinnati Reds tickets!

Thanks to our sponsors: Papa Johns Pizza, bigg’s, Half Price Books in Kenwood, United Dairy Farmers, Dairy Queen, the Cincinnati Reds, Kroger Co., Walmart, New York Life, Wireless Plus 1 and Scho-lan Entertainment.

Reds Hall of Famer Opening Fatherhood Conference

Good news about our Fatherhood Conference! Reds Hall of Famer Joe Morgan is kicking it off!

This is creating a little buzz in the community and that means fatherhood is getting some attention. That is good. We all know that children are better off when a strong, positive father is engaged and playing an active role in their life. Every day, our agency sees abused children who would benefit from the presence of a positive father, or children who do not receive the financial support they need because their fathers are absent.

“A Brighter Future: Strengthening Fathers for Families and Community” is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 13, at the Kingsgate Marriott. The free event is co-sponsored by our department, Lighthouse Youth Services and the Ohio Practitioners Network for Fathers & Families. It is targeted to fathers and attorneys, court personnel, probation officers and social service agencies who work with fathers and families. To register, call 513-487-6780.

In addition to Morgan’s insight, participants will hear from Congressman Steve Driehaus about the importance of fathers and the role they plan in strong families and communities. The theme resonates with those of us who see the effects of missing fathers on a daily basis.

Happy Ending

Today’s stories on Channel 9 (http://www.wcpo.com/dpp/news/region_central_cincinnati/siblings-reunited-after-46-years) and in The Cincinnati Enquirer (http://news.cincinnati.com/article/20100809/NEWS01/8100350/1055/NEWS/Family-reunites-after-split-decades-ago) tell a few interesting things about the world of child welfare.

First, they tell how far we have come. Forty years ago, there was not as much emphasis on keeping siblings together, keeping track of a child’s personal information and keeping a child connected to their biological family. We have come a long way since then and children entering the system today have a much easier time staying in touch with their identity.

The second thing it says is that we have workers here who will do all they can to help someone. This work is much more than a job for them. We are an agency that helps, whether it be protecting children, helping senior citizens, feeding the unemployed, collecting child support or any of the other many duties we carry out. This story is a perfect example of a worker not letting obstacles keep her from her mission. Thank you LaShawn Nelson!

I hope you enjoy this story as much as I did. I love happy endings.

Hamilton County Highlights Child Available for Adoption

Every month, we highlight one of our children who is available for adoption. We try to do it in many ways, but, we may miss some of you, so this month I am adding it to my blog.

We have more than 200 children available for adoption. Many are older. Our pre-teens and teenagers need a family just as much as our younger children. If you are at all interested in adoption, please visit our website, www.hckids.org for information on all of our chidlren.

Here’s some information on the latest child to be highlighted:

A 12-year-old girl who is thinking about a career in nursing is August’s Waiting Child at Hamilton County’s Department of Job and Family Services.

Hamilton County is spotlighting some of the children it has available for adoption with monthly releases to local media.

A bright and personable pre-teen, Jacqueline loves reading fiction books, going to the mall, or playing sports and games with her friends. Not only is she talented at school and in sports; on top of all of it, she’s also a great singer!

Her creative streak means she is equally happy making crafts or performing science lab experiments. Her interests span across a wide variety of activities, from skating and riding her bike, to reading or watching the latest Disney movie.

For more information on Jacqueline, or any Hamilton County chikldren available for adoption, visit www.hckids.org, call (513) 946-1000 or e-mail adoption@jfs.hamilton-co.org. Also, follow Hamilton County JFS Foster Care and Adoption recruitment on Facebook!