California sees decrease in child homicides. What has changed?

The sharp rise in homicide rates in recent years in California and major cities around the country hides some kind of good news about minors: The number of homicides has dropped dramatically. number of child murders in California in the last ten years. an example that represents the minimum wage around the country.

In 1991, California coroners classified 133 deaths of children aged 9 and over as homicides. In 2011, that number dropped to 81.

By 2020, it stood at 40.

Adapted to changes in the population, the state’s homicide rate – the number of homicides per 100,000 children from 0 to 9 – has fallen by about 50% from 2011 to 2020 and down about 70% from three years ago, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the California Department of Health.

Nationwide, the child homicide rate has dropped by 14% in the past ten years and 28% from three years earlier.

The majority of homicides involve newborns, infants, and young children. Deanne Tilton Durfee, executive director of the Los Angeles County Inter-Agency Council on Child Abuse and Neglect, noted that “safety exclusion” laws have come online in California and other states around. of 2001. The law allows parents to secretly give away a baby for 3 days or more without fear of retaliation.

More than 1,000 California babies have been safely donated since the law was enacted, according to the California Department of Social Services. The number of abandoned babies across the state fell from an average of 18 per year from 2001 to 2005 to a second average per year from 2015 to 2019. 2015-19.

“Captivity has really changed,” Tilton Durfee said. “We’re showing a strong link between a decrease in the number of child homicides and an increase in the number of insurance benefits. I don’t think it’s the same, it’s not accurate, but it’s clear. when we started, we saw a lot of child killers leaving.

Having access to family planning services means that child homicides are reduced when people give birth to unwanted babies. Birth rates – births per 1,000 women – in California and the country have fallen over the past three years, and women are waiting until old age and more of childbirth. While fathers or friends are more likely to kill children than mothers, Tilton Durfee said data collected in Los Angeles County shows the relationship in between the ages of maternal and child murder: Parental mothers do not often have children.

Some child care experts have cited studies showing a link between a decrease in the number of child homicides and an increase in the risk of miscarriage.

While the news is full of stories of injured children falling into the cracks of community service centers, experts interviewed by KHN said the safety net in California is stronger than before. now more than years ago and that first deal with – troubled families has changed.

Various agencies – law enforcement, community services, hospitals, non -governmental organizations – seek to prevent child homicide. Child protection advocates say many California counties have worked in recent years to improve communication between those groups so they know when a child is at risk for homicide.

“They’re good at doing something with their knowledge and relating to each other,” Drs. Michael Durfee, who helped start the nation’s first “child crime prevention group” in Los Angeles County in 1978.

Organizations such as First 5 California and state agencies such as the Department of Social Services have also started home visitation programs for parents of newborns. “I think the home visit worked great,” Tilton Durfee said. He said the programs provide “eyes and ears and support in the home to see how safe the child is or to help the grieving parent.”

Other providers reported success in early diagnosis and support services for children with disabilities, who were more numerous than other children.

“We’re looking, and so we’re starting to see those things and make changes in the first place,” said Sheila Boxley, president and CEO of the Statewide Child Abuse Prevention Center.

It’s true that the number of child homicides in California has dropped by race and ethnicity – but it doesn’t erase the differences. The number of homicides involving young Black children from 2011 to 2020 was more than three times higher than the figure for white and Hispanic children and elsewhere. seven times the number for Asian children.

Tilton Durfee has denounced long -standing systemic racism. He said the most frequent events in families where a young child was killed – unemployment, drug abuse, mental illness, domestic violence – were more common in the community. America.

Deciding when a child has died is difficult. Some data are trying to capture the magnitude of the problem. The death certificate data for this record is used to determine the cause of death by the coroners.

Kimberly Gin, Sacramento County coroner and president of the California State Coroners Association, said coroners have used the same practice for many years when deciding if a homicide is fatal. . Homicide begins as a deliberate act “committed by a person to threaten, harm, or kill,” according to the National Association of Medical Examiners.

“It’s also simple: If a child is shot, it’s a murder,” Gin said. “The medication is over or it’s a stroke – sometimes it’s not really clear.”

A separate database from the California Department of Justice that accurately collects information from law enforcement agencies about deaths designated by those agencies as homicides, including the age of those injured. For most years, the information provided by law enforcement investigators has been relevant to the final determination of the cause of death. But when the victims are very young, the records show wide differences between the initial evaluation by law enforcement agencies and the coroner’s final decision.

State DOJ data consistently show California homicides for children from 0 to 9 years higher than death certificate data: 13 new homicides in 2020, for example. However, according to death certificate data, it shows a significant decrease in child homicide rates: a 70% decrease from 1991 and a 28% decrease from 2011.

Homicide among children continued to decline in the first year of illness, while homicide increased for other age groups, according to the death certificate and state DOJ figures. Preliminary figures show further declines in 2021, but Gin, the Sacramento County coroner called those numbers “iffy” because research into the deaths of children from the United States continues. years ago.

Tilton Durfee supports actions that will reduce the number of homicides. He called for improved mental health care for parents of newborns. She said more programs were needed to prepare pregnant parents for the challenges they would face. He expressed support for legislation that would re -establish a state child mortality review council to determine the nature and differences of child deaths. He said insurance companies and government agencies would start covering the cost of home visits to support new parents.

“We’re so embarrassed to have such a high level of home visitation that dental work can be done,” she said, “with these little kids.”

Phillip Reese is an information specialist and professor of journalism at California State University-Sacramento.

This story was created by KHN, which publishes California Healthline, an independent editorial service of the California Health Care Foundation.

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a government news agency that publishes in -depth news coverage on health issues. KHN is one of three major projects at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is a non -profit organization that provides information on health issues in the nation.

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