How the District's Children Die Stories of a city failing its most vulnerable wards.

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Cause of Death:

  • 103 were listed as having died from natural causes.
  • 86 natural deaths involved children under 1 year old.
  • 3 children had HIV/AIDS.
  • 10 deaths were “undetermined.”
  • 38 children died from violent acts.
  • 36 of these deaths were ruled homicides.
  • 32 of these deaths were the result of youth violence.
  • Ninety-seven percent of these were caused by firearms.
  • 100 percent of these decedents were known to the District’s public-assistance program; 38 percent were receiving services.
  • 50 percent had a diagnosed mental illness and received public mental health services.
  • 53 percent were known to the District’s juvenile justice system.
  • 34 percent reported dealing with issues of grief and loss.
  • 38 percent were known to the District’s child-welfare system.
  • 21 of the 160 fatalities were youth known to the juvenile justice system within the two years prior to their deaths.

  • 1 was a suicide.

Case Study No. 1: Abuse Death


“At approximately 2:00 PM, DC medics responded to a report of a toddler ‘having breathing difficulty.’ CPR was performed on the scene and in route to the hospital. Once at the hospital life saving measures continued but failed; the child was pronounced dead at 3:35 PM. Investigation revealed the child had been in the care of the mother’s paramour, who eventually admitted to ‘accidentally killing the child.’

Cause/Manner of death: Blunt Impact Trauma of Torso with Lacerations of Liver, Spleen, Pancreas, Kidneys and Right Adrenal Gland/Homicide.”

Case Study No. 2: A Suicide

“DC Medics arrived on the scene and found a teenage victim lying on the floor, unconscious and unresponsive, suffering from a gunshot wound to the head. Resuscitation efforts were initiated on the scene and continued in route to a local hospital. Life saving measures continued in the hospital emergency room; however, efforts failed and the victim was pronounced dead approximately one hour after arrival.

Based on the investigation, the events leading to the death involved a domestic dispute between the victim and his significant other. As the argument began to escalate, the victim began making suicide threats.

Based on family members interceding, the argument subsided several times and would then resume shortly afterwards. After approximately an hour, a relative reported hearing a loud noise and then the victim’s paramour scream repeatedly, ‘he shot himself.’

The investigation revealed the decedent had threatened to take his life numerous times prior to the fatal incident. It was also revealed that friends were aware that the decedent had a gun and on at least one other occasion had placed the gun to his head and threatened to [shoot] himself.

The victim had an extensive history with the mental health system but was non-complaint with his treatment and medication during recent years. Based on the autopsy, the victim had experienced significant losses as evident by several tattoos observed during the examination. His toxicology screen at autopsy was positive for methamphetamines.”

Our Readers Say

It is a shame that the families in the District care nothing for themselves or the children they have with no thought or apparently knowledge of how to properly raise and care for them. These stories were very disheartening. I am no longer amazed at the ignorance or excuses I hear for the continued abuse of drugs, alcohol, and violent behaviors prodominently exhibited by the poor (black & white).
I think it is a cycle. Unfortunately, many feel down-trodden and do not break the cycle. Some believe that destitute is who they are, and destitute is how they'll stay. I don't blame the government totally or the families totally. In many ways, the "system" fails them, and in many ways, it fails society as a whole... by not being accountable. There are some families "living it up" while others are working hard... System glitch. And there are some not getting proper help to help secure their future... system glitch. Either way, it is a disparity, and you could point fingers, but we all need to take responsibility for our part. I think people blame government because a LOT of the time, they are NOT accountable for their actions. But point blank, period, one can CHOOSE better. But how does one choose if one does not KNOW better? That's the tricky question. Some FIGHT. Others don't. Many don't know they have a CHOICE to fight...
This is sad, the system didn't fail them; having sorry ass, no account, selfish, addicted parents failed them, gottdamn shame, and such a waste of life..sigh

No white man or boogey man to blame for this one
Wow, this story is so sad.
Excellent piece-- although I wish that the author had spent more time talking about how social conditions (housing, neighborhoods, etc) influence mortality rates-- especially birth weight! So many comments seem like they feel that these children "deserved it!" In fact, what we're seeing in DC, and communities all over, is that children born into poor circumstances face poor life choices.

I hope that we can begin to think about what causes Ward 8 to be at the top of these charts, why is it overwhelmingly African American children who die young? It can't be simply that ALL residents of Ward 8 have "bad genes" or "don't care about themselves." It is something much more fundamental.

The article dances around questions of equity but sadly fails to make these connections explicit, opening the door to the "they deserved it" or "they're ignorant" crowd.

Shame on DC for having this kind of inequity and poverty in our midst.
Why was necessary to only identify the location of the incidents that took place in SE? Aside from the mention of NE in 'Case Study No. 2: A Natural Death', no other detail was given with regard to the quadrant of the city in which the other deaths occurred. Enlighten me.
@hmmm I noticed the exact same thing! Why was it important to only list the SE quadrants (assuming the other case studies were not in SE)?
this article made me so sad.....each person described was a human being who deserved so much more life. Kudos to Jason for digging beneath the usual superficial reporting and bringing these cases to our attention.
Blacks must make better life choices. Government must limit the entitlement funds.Women and Men must use condoms and keep a month's supply at all times. Dudes must quit molesting children in the Black neighborhoods or any neighborhood. Leave the drugs and thugs alone and quit slepeing with down-low brothas and diseased people.

Throw away the TV,video games and pornagraphy in the closet. Read books, educate and visit cultural places of significance more often. Cease the violence and derelict family values. Watch your lives change overnight if you follow this prescription especially US Blacks.
Who extracts 8 teeth, does several fillings and gives a fluoride treatment to a 6 year old at the same time?????
Kind of reminds me of the young white mother who hid her infant in a suitcase and left t in an attic on Veazey St. NW. Or Andrea Yeats. Or Amy Grossberg. Or Marybeth Tinning. Or Susan Smith. I could go on and on; the list covers several centuries.

It's kind of different when you don't have the luxury of "going away to Switzerland for vacation" for six months and then coming back childless.

I guess white folks kill their kids occasionally, too.
this has got to be the saddest and most truthful article ever published.

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