A report of the death of a child appeared in the Mercury News on June 3, 2008 “San Jose day care center, where boy died last month, is shut down.” What makes this article different is not that the news occurred, but that it was covered.The death of a child is unbearable. But the media rarely covers the leading cause of death among children: severe personal injuries as a result of someone’s negligence.
Too often we are bombarded with the news of a child kidnapping. Statistically kidnapping is a rarity. Overwhelmingly more common is a child’s death as a result of an adult being tuned out or not paying attention.
Last month a two year-old was strangled to death in a day care center in San Jose when the cord of a hooded sweatshirt caught in play equipment. The day care operator was grossly understaff: one adult attempting to supervise 14 youngsters.
The real danger for children is not from a stranger lurking near a school. It is more likely that the cause of death is avoidable negligence: not providing a seat belt or car seat, no supervision in a day care center or wading in a wave pool at Great America supervised only by an 8 year old sister who could not swim.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 3,100 children under the age of three died in 2002. The major causes of death were suffocation due to choking or strangulation, motor vehicle crashes, traumatic brain injuries, drowning and last, death by maltreatment including blunt traumas and violent shaking.
In 2002, 2,300 deaths occurred between the ages of 4-11. The major causes of death were negligent driving, drowning, automobile- pedestrian collisions, and finally homicide in fourth place.
Among adolescents age 12-19, 12,200 died from injuries in 2002. Not surprisingly, motor vehicle accidents were the main reason. In addition, 4.7 million were nonfatally injured in 2003, according to the CDC.
The causes of most personal injuries and wrongful deaths are preventable. A two-ear old should never die of strangulation on a slide. Adults must be present and take all precautions to prevent injuries, even in adolescents, their brains are not fully developed.
A three year-old cannot think for him or herself at all. A 4-11 year-old need constant attention and monitoring. Teenagers are always deemed the most difficult as they appear to be in the transition between child and adult. But we should never forget they are more child than adult.
No one should leave a 2 year-old unattended, when an 11 year-old holds a bat in their hands an adult needs to be present, and putting an SUV in the hands of a 16 year-old boy, whose cognitive skills are not fully developed, is dangerous.
Children of all ages need constant attention and consistent rules. Caregivers cannot simply be their child’s best friend. They have a job and a major part of that task is to insure the health, welfare and safety of children.
Regardless of our love and trust for our children, every adult caregiver is responsible for the acts of the children in their care and for the consequences of their actions and failure to act. People make mistakes, but the death of a child due to strangulation from a tie string on a sweatshirt that caught on playground equipment is intolerable.
When adults abdicated their responsibility for children, the consequences have been horrific. Every accidental death of a child is a wrongful death. When a child drowns in a pool or at an amusement park or dies on a playground, it is almost always the result of an adult not paying attention.
Accidents can be prevented and each of us must do our part. For in the final analysis, the real danger is not the stranger, but the person whose duty it is to care, feed and protect the child.
Failure is not an option.
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