Child Deaths By Drowning And Prevention Efforts

The Florida Child Abuse Death Review Committee is a grimly named group whose role is to compile information regarding deaths that are verified by the Department of Children and Families. Among the deaths in 2011 were 32 attributed to drowning. The majority of these incidents occur when an untended child falls into a swimming pool. Drowning was the leading cause of death in the report released by Florida officials this month. While that number is clearly too high, it may fall far short of the actual number of drowning deaths among Florida children.

Anne Stewart is the head of the Palm Beach County Drowning Prevention Program. She understands that it is an impossible task for parents to watch their children every moment of every day. That is why she is a strong proponent of security measures when it comes to swimming pools. She stated that fences, alarms, and “water watchers” could have prevented all 32 child deaths reported in 2011.

The Committee’s report is not without some controversy. Members of the Committee have complained that more deaths should be included, not just those verified by the Department of Children and Families. One member pointed out that Miami-Dade County reported zero drowning deaths, a highly unlikely result. Counties vary in their reporting standards and some officials might be reluctant to raise the specter of abuse or neglect in connection with a child’s death.

Drowning is a leading cause of death among children. It is also a largely preventable problem. Swimming pools are a deadly combination of attractive and dangerous. Children are drawn to pools, but they should not be allowed to approach a pool unsupervised. Vigilance is necessary to make a swimming pool safe for kids.

Source: Sun Sentinel, “Drowning, improper sleeping lead child death causes,” by Ben Wolford, 14 January 2013