The Dougherty District Attorney says lowering teen pregnancy in southwest Georgia could mean fewer child deaths.
A new report from the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services shows an unusually high number of deaths of children in the system in our area.
A new report on deaths among children who had been served by the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services shows the highest death rates in southwest and central Georgia.
"Well, it's information to me and of course, we'll have to look at some of the issues related to that," said Dougherty District Attorney Greg Edwards.
This is the first ever yearly report of its kind. And state officials are taking a closer look at the numbers- 152 deaths across Georgia- and questioning what's behind them. 51 of those were reported natural, 35 accidental, 18 were murders and 6 suicides. The others were either pending or undetermined. Region 10, which includes Dougherty County, had the second highest number of deaths.
Edwards believes this is another reason to try to reduce teen pregnancy. While teen pregnancy rates have slowly gone down in Georgia, it's still high in Dougherty County. "My belief, if there's a high correlation between higher infant mortality or children's deaths in this area, it's probably going to coincide with our high teen pregnancy and I think our efforts to address teen pregnancy will probably go towards maybe reducing some of these issues and preventing some deaths," said Edwards.
Edwards says that whenever there is a child death, they have to follow specific protocol.
"Whenever there is a death of a child, under the age of 16, we begin the process of activating a child death response team. This team will make contact with the responding officers and go to the scene and take steps to determine if there's anything criminal involved with the death," said Edwards.
And several other agencies are on hand to make sure the proper services are provided to families in need.
"Recently we've had three cases where we've done forensic interviews on witnesses, child witnesses to a child death. When something like that happens then the child death team will convene and decide if they need a forensic interview on any children that may be a witness to that," Said Lily Pad Child Advocacy Center Dir. Mary Martinez.
Other regions that also included high number of deaths include Columbus and Atlanta.