FREDERICTON (GNB) – Responses were issued by several departments today regarding recent recommendations by the Child Death Review Committee in the deaths of three children whose families were known to the Department of Social Development.

The committee reviews the deaths of children under the age of 19, including those who were in the legal care of the Minister of Social Development, or whose families were in contact with the Department of Social Development within 12 months before the child's death.

The first review was into the death of a 13-year-old boy who died of asphyxia as a result of neck compression. The coroner ruled the death an accident. The deceased was known to Social Development through its Access and Assessment program. The committee made the following recommendation in this case:

  • That an educational program or information session be conducted for children in middle school and high school on the dangers of the “choking game,” which is also referred to as the “pass out game” or “space monkey game”. This subject matter is not only a matter of public safety, but also a health issue; therefore, the committee would recommend that agencies such as police and the departments of Health and Education and Early Childhood Development, through their community-based and school programs, promote awareness of such a dangerous activity.

The minister of Education and Early Childhood Development advises that this recommendation will be reviewed by relevant staff to ensure that school personnel and students are aware of this dangerous practice. In general, health curricula in both the anglophone and the francophone education sectors do include information regarding healthy decision-making and positive peer relationships.

The second review was into the death of an eight-month-old boy whose death was attributed to sudden unexpected death in infancy with a contributing factor of environmental exposure to tobacco smoke. The deceased’s parents were known to Social Development. The committee made the following recommendation in this case:

  • That the Province of New Brunswick, upon the discharge of any newborn child, reinforce educational information regarding the dangers of tobacco smoke and second-hand smoke to all parents and/or legal guardians.

The minister of Health responded that certain measures are already in place to make parents aware of the dangers of tobacco smoke.

All New Brunswick parents receive a series of books called Loving Care: Birth to 6 Months, Loving Care: 6 to 12 Months, and Loving Care: Parent and Families prior to discharge from the hospital following the birth of their baby. Each book has a section that addresses the importance of a smoke-free home and car for the health of the baby and family.

A public health nurse completes a priority assessment of all newborns prior to their discharge from the hospital to determine their eligibility for the Healthy Families, Healthy Babies program. Tobacco use is assessed and discussed with the parent as part of this assessment. Intensive home visits by public health nurses are offered to eligible children and their families based on the outcome of the priority assessment, with tobacco use contributing to the priority score.

The primary focus of the Healthy Families, Healthy Babies program during the postnatal period is to improve outcomes for children identified as at-risk for developmental delay. The anticipated outcomes of these targeted services are:

  • enhanced child health and development;
  • enhanced maternal health;
  • increased commitment to healthy lifestyles by families; and
  • use of available community and social supports.

The third review was into the death of a two-year-old boy who died as a result of drowning. The death was ruled an accident. The deceased was known to Social Development through its Access and Assessment program. The committee made the following recommendation in this case:

  • That the minister of Environment and Local Government, in an effort to limit child access to backyard pools, enact legislation to require four-sided fencing of a minimum height of four feet (1.22 metres), self-closing and self-latching gate(s), and the retrofitting of fencing for existing in-ground, above ground and inflatable pools.

The minister of Environment and Local Government advises that the requirements recommended by the committee are currently required in the New Brunswick Regulation 81-126 under the Community Planning Act, referred to as the Provincial Building Regulation. This regulation applies in local service districts and local governments that do not have building bylaws in place.

The Department of Environment and Local Government is committed to engaging the local governance sector to explore legislation as recommended, and to look at the rules that are currently set out.

The Child Death Review Committee advises the Office of the Chief Coroner, which is part of the Department of Public Safety.