When a Child Dies

A child is dead. TV anchors break the grim news; sound bites and video clips show relatives in shock and grief. Perhaps the cause was abuse or neglect, violence or a preventable accident. In an effort to make sense of a tragedy, someone or something must be to blame. A drumbeat begins and where it ends nobody knows.

Sensitive, thoughtful media coverage can be a powerful tool for justice and understanding, a catalyst for policies that help prevent wrongs from being repeated. But sensationalist, reactionary reporting sometimes paves the road to laws or regulations that may not be helpful to children, families or communities.

What are the best practices for journalists who cover perhaps the worst tragedy of all — a child's death? In this training module, Casey Medal winners and other accomplished journalists offer guidance to reporters who take on the daunting assignment of telling the story of a child's short life and unraveling the truths behind their untimely deaths.

Whether you are an emerging or established reporter, professional or citizen journalist, we hope you will find this site useful and we look forward to your feedback.

Featured Reports Reflections from reporters who have covered notable child death stories

Multimedia  

Noteworthy Cases

Timeline

A chronology of noteworthy child deaths and other pivotal policy developments related to mortality in the U.S.

Child Death Statistics

Data Visualization

The numbers tell us that children are dying later in childhood and more violently than ever. Data also show that boys and youth of color are the most at risk.

Photo: Clyde Mueller/The New Mexican

Children's Memorials

Slideshow

What hits home about a child's death is often what's visual, tangible and most simple. A teenager's high-tops, for example. A cross at the side of the road. Or a memorial candle, flickering in the night.

Reporter Resources  

How to Write an Obituary About a Child

It's often said that news is the first draft of history. In the case of a child who has died, an obit may be the only public account of a life cut short. Here are suggestions on how to do it right.

How to Interview Children About Death

Do's and don'ts of interviewing kids about death, and the risks and benefits of lending their voices to your stories.

Missing White Girl Syndrome

Newsflash: White girls aren't the most at risk of abduction and death. So why does news coverage often suggest otherwise?

Family Interview

A case study on why families of dead children tell us volumes more than a police blotter ever could.

Legal and Ethical FAQs

What are the ethical and legal implications of naming names, publishing photos and holding people accountable when children die.

Dig Deeper

An interview with Annie E. Casey Foundation Senior Fellow John Mattingly.

For child death data, studies and resources, visit this page.
When a Child Dies was made possible with generous support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation: Helping vulnerable kids and families succeed.
About This Project: Who's who behind this module