Ga. Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver pre-files child advocacy legislation

ATLANTA — State Representative Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, recently pre-filed legislation in an effort to strengthen the Child Fatality Review Panel process. House Bill 705 would move the Child Fatality Review Panel and its functions from the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) to the Department of Public Health, and amend confidentiality provisions relating to child abuse records.

“The Office of the Child Advocate needs to strengthen their efforts to analyze and prevent child fatalities in this state, or it should be eliminated,” Oliver said in a statement. “I believe that The Child Fatality Review Panel’s functions can be handled more effectively by the Department of Public Health, and House Bill 705 would make this change possible. I know there are many interested parties in this issue, and I look forward to a good effort in 2014 to review the child advocacy process.”

House Bill 705, which will be formally introduced in the 2014 legislative session, would remove the responsibility of the Georgia Child Fatality Review Panel from the Office of the Child Advocate for the Protection of Children to the Commissioner of the Department of Public Health. The commissioner will coordinate and supervise the work of the panel to provide administrative support, planning, policy, and budget functions.

Additionally, HB 705 is designed to improve the sharing of information by allowing any adult who requests information involving a child fatality to have easier access to that information. Under HB 705, any child abuse records that relate to a child fatality will no longer remain totally confidential.

The Georgia Child Fatality Review Panel is currently coordinated through the OCA and was created to determine the cause and circumstances around child deaths and to prevent child fatalities through the review and collection of data. The panel’s goals include improving response to child fatalities, improving understanding of how and why children die, and influencing legislation, policies and programs that affect the health, safety and protection of children.

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