Crisis Intervention & Response LESSON #8 — Dealing with Death, a Child Code

As a crisis responder perhaps the most emotional situation you will experience will be the death of a child or infant. Whether natural or accident, the death is most usually unexpected.

The relative innocence of the child and tragedy experienced by the adults compounds the experience. Many of the participants including first responders and law enforcement can very easily relate to the sorrow being felt by the child’s parents and relatives…many have children of their own.

The emotional saturation of the group places additional stresses on the crisis responder to individually maintain their own emotional balance.

Awareness of the feelings can not, alone, be focused on the crisis client(s) but on the room as a whole including fire, EMT and police personnel. A simple word of support or empathy to a police officer standing “guard” over a deceased infant or child may give them their personal permission to internally experience a normal human emotion. An emotion in a time when their experience and training would dictate an unemotional professional personality.

Speaking of the professional side of the experience, the child code will immediately involve a higher level of “cause questioning” on the part of the crisis client as well as police personnel. The very touchy subject of child abuse and level of adult supervision becomes a standard line of the investigation. This becomes a extreme tight rope for the crisis responder. It is the responder’s job to comfort and foreshadow the reason for the questioning but in no way participate in providing or accepting any information involving the incident. Those questions must be asked by the investigators.

The mechanics of the call would follow the procedures outlined in Lesson #7—Unattended Natural Death.

More than most, a Child Code calls for post incident follow-up with the first responders. The natural response of the responders who are mothers, fathers or others who have close relationships with a child will suppress strong emotional feelings while on the call. The emotions, fear and/or empathy, often surface after the call. Crisis responders should note those who are involved with the incident and touch base with them or their commanding officers the following day.

For more information concerning the process of Crisis Response management, watch for Lesson #9 — Hospital Protocol.

Pete Adams
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