Death of Haverhill Infant Appears Related to ‘Co-Sleeping’ with Parent

Mass. Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders. (Courtesy photograph.)

A preliminary analysis into the April death of a four-week-old Haverhill boy suggests “co-sleeping” with a parent may be the cause.

Although the baby had an open Department of Children and Families case in his name, he was not in the agency’s custody and died while asleep at a shelter, Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders told WHAV.

“As best as we can determine pending the final medical examiner’s report, the infant in Haverhill, who was not in the custody of DCF, was living with their biological parent in a shelter and the death appears to be a result of co-sleeping,” she said.

On April 18, first responders took the Haverhill child to Holy Family Hospital in Riverside, where he was pronounced dead, said Carrie Kimball, spokesperson for Essex County District Attorney Jonathan W. Blodgett.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says about 3,500 U.S. infants die annually from sleep-related deaths. Deaths from sudden infant death syndrome is falling, but babies dying from accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed doubled since 1999.

Likewise, Sudders said, a Methuen infant who also died in April while in foster care “appears to be the result of a medical condition.” State Police detectives were notified April 25 that the three-month-old baby boy passed away after emergency personnel could not revive the unresponsive child.

“The death of any child death is a terrible tragedy and the Department of Children and Families takes seriously its responsibility to keep kids safe. While it does not appear that any of these incidents stem from similar causes, DCF, in collaboration with the Essex County District Attorney's office, is investigating each circumstance and the chief medical examiner’s office determines the cause of death,” Sudders said.

As previously reported, a 15-month-old Lawrence female in foster care was also taken to Lawrence General Hospital after being found unresponsive June 23. Sudders said, “There is an active investigation into the recent death of a child living in a foster home in Lawrence and it is too soon to determine the cause of death.”

At any given time, DCF provides services and supports to approximately 45,000 children under the age of 18 and their families, the agency reports. Approximately 80 percent of the children served live at home. The remaining 20 percent are placed out of home, including in foster care.

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