Assembly Human Services Committee Chair Valerie Vainieri Huttle issued the following statement Thursday on the special investigation conducted by NJ Advance Media into the dangers posed by family members sharing beds with infants.
“This was a heartbreaking expose that raised many questions, particularly about what we can and need to be doing as a state to avoid these preventable tragedies.
“At the heart of the primary account detailed in this investigation are some serious questions about the effectiveness of the Division of Child Protection and Permanency. This is not about pointing fingers, but about understanding why the division, after receiving a clear warning based on a documented pattern of infant deaths in one particular family, failed to find an investigation necessary.
“As a member of the state Task Force on Child Abuse and Neglect, which is tasked with reviewing the practices and policies of this division, I intend to bring up this issue with my fellow task force members to determine if a review of the division’s current policies is warranted.
“While there are many factors that might lead parents to share a bed with their infant – lack of information, family traditions, exhaustion or economic constraints – we need to be doing a better job as a state to create a general sense of awareness and reach out to at-risk populations. An important first step is to make sure more people are aware of the benefits of baby boxes,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen).
Vainieri Huttle is a prime sponsor of legislation overwhelmingly approved by the Assembly in March that would require various state departments to provide information on their websites on “baby boxes,” the first-in-the-nation practice enacted by New Jersey in January, as well as safe sleep education, which are deemed vital by experts in helping to reduce sleep-related infant mortalities.