Health System One of Five National Demonstration Sites Selected to Receive Grant from Department of Justice to Identify Collaborative Strategies Addressing Child Abuse and Neglect Injuries and Fatalities

Cook County Health today released its implementation plan for a national demonstration initiative funded by the Department of Justice aimed at reducing serious injuries and fatalities to children caused by abuse or neglect.

“Our implementation plan uniquely addresses critical gaps in training and access to services in three Illinois counties,” said Dr. Marjorie Fujara, pediatrician specializing in child abuse with Cook County Health. “We are optimistic that the plan will achieve our goal of reducing serious injuries and fatalities from child maltreatment.”

Through the Child Safety Forward initiative, Cook County Health is one of five sites nationwide engaged in a demonstration initiative with support from a broad range of technical assistance providers to develop implementation plans to address child maltreatment injuries and fatalities.

Our primary source of data for the three counties (Cook, Peoria and Vermilion) will be from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. No similar analysis has recently been conducted in Illinois. An additional source of information is the Medical Examiner’s offices in Cook, Peoria and Vermillion counties. Although these data sets will not include all fatalities, they should capture episodes of suspicious nature. In addition, we will examine the information released in the annual Office of the Inspector General report.

The focus of Cook County Health’s implementation plan will take a public health approach by convening a multidisciplinary group of community stakeholders working with vulnerable families in a variety of different settings. The identified stakeholders are health care providers, community health workers, maternal-infant health providers, educators and social service providers. They are also joined by professionals in the legal, law enforcement, child welfare and child advocacy fields to explore potential service gaps that may place children at-risk for maltreatment. The work will be focused in three Illinois counties: Cook, Peoria and Vermilion, with a goal of identifying the unique risk factors that may explain the higher rates of serious injuries in Peoria and Vermilion counties. The multidisciplinary collaborative will also examine which community-based interventions or services are most effective at preventing child maltreatment in these three counties.

In addition to facilitating information sharing among the stakeholders and child maltreatment professionals, Cook County Health will:
• Implement simulation training, conducted by the Child Protection Academy at the University of Illinois Springfield, for investigators, Intact from child welfare (DCFS) and law enforcement from all three counties.
• Implement multidisciplinary team training, conducted by Hoyleton Youth and Family Services, for DCFS, and law enforcement investigators from Peoria and Vermilion counties. This multidisciplinary training will help hone their collaborative skills and improve the efficiency and accuracy of decision making.
• Facilitate access to telehealth services with a child abuse pediatrician to Vermilion County, which has not had access to this expertise in the past.
• Utilize geospatial risk analysis mapping to demonstrate neighborhood “hot spots” of interpersonal violence. This information will assist in planning the implementation of services, which will include input from community members to address potential barriers to accessing these services.
• Collaborate further to standardize messaging to pregnant women and parents with newborns at all points of contact (WIC, health care providers, social service agencies, etc.)

The implementation plan was developed utilizing an evidence-based approach that included the following key elements to inform the approach:
1) Conducted a retrospective review of five years of fatality review data to identify children who are most at risk;
2) Conducted a community needs assessment to identify areas of opportunity for improved services and response;
3) Formed a collaborative body of stakeholders and partners to guide the work;
4) Used a developmental evaluation approach and created a theory of change to illustrate goals and strategies to achieve them;
5) Reviewed all goals through an equity and diversity lens;
6) Ensured the input of individuals with lived experience, as well as community voices; and
7) Developed a sustainability plan to ensure the effort’s long-term success.

The demonstration initiative is funded by the U.S. Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime, which has provided $750,000 over three years to the five sites. In addition to Cook County Health, the other sites include: Indiana Department of Health; Saint Francis Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut; Child Abuse Prevention Council of Sacramento; and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The technical assistance team is led by Within Our Reach and the Change in Mind Institute at the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities.

Disclaimer: This product was supported by cooperative agreement number 2019-V3-GX-K005, awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this product are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Elizabeth Pedersen, Communications Manager