Report: Hampton Roads leads state in child abuse, neglect deaths

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — Hampton Roads is topping a list no area wants to be on: the Virginia  Department of Social Services child death investigations.

This year, the Eastern District reported 12 deaths due to abuse or neglect. Four others  are being appealed, so it could be as high as 16. Eighteen more babies died due to unsafe sleeping conditions.

At news conference Wednesday morning, the Child Fatality Review Team said children are 30 times more likely to die in unsafe sleeping conditions than in a car accident. Former Virginia Health Commissioner Dr. Karen Remley also demonstrated the correct way to put a baby to bed: alone, on his or her back in a crib, with nothing else in it.

Report: Child abuse and neglect fatalities in Hampton Roads

Dr. Remley, who is now working with Eastern Virginia Medical School, said EVMS  has partnered with the Medical Examiner’s office to  look at the charts of all babies who have died locally in the last five years. Then, they will use that information to  teach, first  health professionals and then the community at large, things that could have been done differently. Dr. Remley said that will hit home.

“That is different than another brochure, another report, another small PSA but is a comprehensive approach based on science and research that we can use to really tackle the problem,” said Dr. Remley.

Another man who came to the event Wednesday is also working to educate fathers. Randell Barkley ‘s pregnant wife, Sonita, drowned their three boys, ages 4, 3 and 7 months, and then jumped  off a bridge to her own death. Sonita Barkley, he said, suffered from postpartum depression.

“Us, as fathers, we’re not educated on the simple things,” Barkley said.

Barkley wrote a book, “The Heartbroken Soulmate,” to tell his story and to encourage men to  get involved, get educated and save lives.

“If I could take that day back, of any day of my life, that would be one day I would have just stayed home, I would have just stayed, I wouldn’t have left,” said Barkley.

The Fatality Review Team is also working on new ways to educate fathers and other caregivers.

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