A. There is hereby created the State Child Fatality Review Team, referred to in this section as “the Team,” which shall develop and implement procedures to ensure that child deaths occurring in Virginia are analyzed in a systematic way. The Team shall review (i) violent and unnatural child deaths, (ii) sudden child deaths occurring within the first 18 months of life, and (iii) those fatalities for which the cause or manner of death was not determined with reasonable medical certainty. No child death review shall be initiated by the Team until conclusion of any law-enforcement investigation or criminal prosecution. The Team shall (i) develop and revise as necessary operating procedures for the review of child deaths, including identification of cases to be reviewed and procedures for coordination among the agencies and professionals involved, (ii) improve the identification, data collection, and record keeping of the causes of child death, (iii) recommend components for prevention and education programs, (iv) recommend training to improve the investigation of child deaths, and (v) provide technical assistance, upon request, to any local child fatality teams that may be established. The operating procedures for the review of child deaths shall be exempt from the Administrative Process Act (§ 2.2-4000 et seq.) pursuant to subdivision B 17 of § 2.2-4002.
B. The 16-member Team shall be chaired by the Chief Medical Examiner and shall be composed of the following persons or their designees: the Commissioner of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services; the Director of Child Protective Services within the Department of Social Services; the Superintendent of Public Instruction; the State Registrar of Vital Records; and the Director of the Department of Criminal Justice Services. In addition, one representative from each of the following entities shall be appointed by the Governor to serve for a term of three years: local law-enforcement agencies, local fire departments, local departments of social services, the Medical Society of Virginia, the Virginia College of Emergency Physicians, the Virginia Pediatric Society, local emergency medical services personnel, attorneys for the Commonwealth, and community services boards.
C. Upon the request of the Chief Medical Examiner in his capacity as chair of the Team, made after the conclusion of any law-enforcement investigation or prosecution, information and records regarding a child whose death is being reviewed by the Team may be inspected and copied by the Chief Medical Examiner or his designee, including, but not limited to, any report of the circumstances of the event maintained by any state or local law-enforcement agency or medical examiner, and information or records maintained on such child by any school, social services agency or court. Information, records, or reports maintained by any attorney for the Commonwealth shall be made available for inspection and copying by the Chief Medical Examiner pursuant to procedures which shall be developed by the Chief Medical Examiner and the Commonwealth’s Attorneys’ Services Council established by § 2.2-2617. Any presentence report prepared pursuant to § 19.2-299 for any person convicted of a crime that led to the death of the child shall be made available for inspection and copying by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner pursuant to procedures which shall be developed by the Chief Medical Examiner. In addition, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner may inspect and copy from any Virginia health care provider, on behalf of the Team, (i) without obtaining consent, the health and mental health records of the child and those perinatal medical records of the child’s mother that related to such child and (ii) upon obtaining consent from each adult regarding his personal records, or from a parent regarding the records of a minor child, the health and mental health records of the child’s family. All such information and records shall be confidential and shall be excluded from the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (§ 2.2-3700 et seq.) pursuant to subdivision 9 of § 2.2-3705.5. Upon the conclusion of the child death review, all information and records concerning the child and the child’s family shall be shredded or otherwise destroyed by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in order to ensure confidentiality. Such information or records shall not be subject to subpoena or discovery or be admissible in any criminal or civil proceeding. If available from other sources, however, such information and records shall not be immune from subpoena, discovery, or introduction into evidence when obtained through such other sources solely because the information and records were presented to the Team during a child death review. Further, the findings of the Team may be disclosed or published in statistical or other form which shall not identify individuals. The portions of meetings in which individual child death cases are discussed by the Team shall be closed pursuant to subdivision A 21 of § 2.2-3711. In addition to the requirements of § 2.2-3712, all team members, persons attending closed team meetings, and persons presenting information and records on specific child deaths to the Team during closed meetings shall execute a sworn statement to honor the confidentiality of the information, records, discussions, and opinions disclosed during any closed meeting to review a specific child death. Violations of this subsection are punishable as a Class 3 misdemeanor.
D. Upon notification of a child death, any state or local government agency maintaining records on such child or such child’s family which are periodically purged shall retain such records for the longer of 12 months or until such time as the State Child Fatality Review Team has completed its child death review of the specific case.
E. The Team shall compile annual data which shall be made available to the Governor and the General Assembly as requested. These statistical data compilations shall not contain any personally identifying information and shall be public records.
1994, c. 643; 1995, c. 499; 1999, cc. 703, 726; 2004, c. 690; 2007, c. 411; 2009, cc. 813, 840; 2014, c. 583.