The number of children murdered by their parents and caregivers in Los Angeles County declined in 2011, but the number of youths who committed suicide increased, according to reports released Friday.

The Inter-Agency Council on Child Abuse and Neglect recorded 239 child deaths in Los Angeles County overall in 2011, including 24 homicides within families and 19 suicides.

The rest were accidental and undetermined deaths, the latter mostly babies suffocating in unsafe sleeping environments, including co-sleeping with a parent.

The 2011 figures were the most recent available in the current report.

The death of even one child is too many, said Sheriff Lee Baca, who chairs the interagency council. The panel's members come from L.A. County, city, state and federal agencies, community organizations and individuals coordinating the development of services to prevent child abuse and neglect throughout the county.

The number of children dying at the hands of their parents or their mother's husband or boyfriend declined since 2008, when 34 cases were recorded.

The 24 cases recorded in 2011, however, included six families who had had prior contact with the county Department of Children and Family Services.


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Phil Browning, head of the county family agency, noted that percentage is significantly lower than the previous year, when half of the families involved in child deaths had interacted with social workers in some way.

He said the six deaths should be seen in the context of his agency having about 35,000 wards overall.

"Very few situations have resulted in a near-fatality or fatality," Browning said.

Nevertheless, he admitted mistakes may have been made.

"Sometimes, I see decisions made by many of our social workers and I wonder why that decision was made," he said. "All too often, caseworkers are overloaded. "

According to the report, 90 percent of the children who were murdered were under age 5. More than half were babies under a year old.

Browning urged the public to call the agencies' child abuse hotline "" 1-800-540-4000 if they are worried about a child's welfare.

The reports also showed suicides have been on the rise since 2009. The 19 cases recorded in 2011 "" most of them involving hanging "" exceed the 15-year average of 17.8 suicides per year.

Meanwhile, the report noted 88 accidental child deaths in 2011, significantly lower than the 121 cases recorded five years ago. Most were car accidents.

The number of undetermined deaths is on the decline "" 108 cases in 2011 versus about an average of 125 during the prior four years. Most of the deaths, however, were preventable. Two-thirds involved babies in unsafe sleeping environments, including co-sleeping, too-soft bedding, excessive swaddling, loose objects in the crib. Babies are also at risk when sleeping prone or on their side.