Harris County Child Fatality Review Team
(HCCFRT)

Child fatality review teams are multi-disciplinary, multi-agency panels that review all child deaths regardless of the cause.  Members may include law enforcement, prosecutors, medical examiners, justices of the peace, healthcare professionals, child protective services, public and mental health professionals, educators, child advocates, sudden infant death syndrome family service provider, neonatalogist, child juvenile probation officer, and child abuse prevention specialist.  In Texas, formation of child fatality review teams in each county is authorized by Chapter 264 of the Family Code.  These teams are uniquely qualified to understand what no single agency or group working alone can: how and why children are dying in their community.

It is the sincere hope of the Harris County Child Fatality Review Team (HCCFRT) that the information presented here will provide direction for program and policy development to the many agencies and community based organizations concerned with the well being of children in our community.

History

The Houston/Harris County Child Fatality Review Team was formed in April of 1994, just prior to the 74th Texas State Legislature's enactment of Chapter 264, Subchapter F of Texas Family Code (S.F. 1484, and S.B. 81, effective September 1, 1995), that set forth rules and procedures to be followed by child fatality review teams in Texas.  A number of positive changes have been achieved during that time.  In 2011, the name of the team changed to Harris County Child Fatality Review Team.

Member Agencies

Review Process

The death of a child less than 18 years is reviewed if the case is a natural death of a resident of Harris County or if it is an injury death that occurred within the boundaries of Harris County, regardless of residence.  Stillbirths are not reviewed.

Categories of deaths requiring extensive review are: homicide, injuries, suicide, undetermined manner, sudden or unexpected deaths including SIDS, all Medical Examiner cases, all cases with previous Children's Protective Services involvement, and all cases investigated by law enforcement. The large volume of cases in Harris County makes it necessary for the HCCFRT to establish certain criteria to prioritize reviews.  The cases with highest priority are child abuse cases or suspicious death with CPS history. The priority list is,

The presiding officer and the team coordinator compile summary information for each death to be reviewed.  These summaries are provided to the other team members who search their files and obtain the necessary data for a review.  Each member presents their agency’s investigation and/or historical information on the cases and families.  Each case ends with the question, “Was this a preventable death?”  If the answer is yes, the team is asked to identify possible interventions.  The team discussion could be lead to the recommendations for the State Committee.

The review process adheres to strict rules of confidentiality.  Team members sign a confidentiality agreement and may not disclose any confidential information outside of the team.  Records acquired by the team are exempt from disclosure under the Open Records Law, Chapter 552 of the Government Code.  Information, documents, and records are confidential and are not subject to subpoena or discovery, and may not be introduced into evidence in any civil or criminal proceedings.  Furthermore, the child protective services member of a team may not disclose information from the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services records that would identify an individual who reported an allegation of child abuse and/or neglect.

For more information, call the HCCFRT Coordinator at (832) 828-1033 .

Reports

Resources