FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 29, 2004
Schumer Details Plan To Stop Deaths Caused By Shaken Baby Syndrome (Sbs)
Last Wednesday a New Rochelle man was sentenced to 2-6 years in state prison for shaking his 5-month-old son to death; Local incident just one of several in recent years
Schumer 3-point plan would devote federal funds to educate child care providers about Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS), launch public awareness campaign to combat the problem, and declare 3rd week of April National SBS Awaren
With Westchester County the site of several recent high-profile cases, US Senator Charles E. Schumer today outlined a comprehensive plan to combat fatal accidents arising from the shaking of babies. Schumer's plan includes seeking increased federal funding to states for the purpose of educating child care providers about Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS), pushing for a national campaign modeled after the successful Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) campaign to educate people about the problem, and establishing a national SBS Awareness week next month.
"Few people have heard of it but SBS is a serious and tragic national problem. Shaking a baby can be as dangerous as other forms of abuse, and we need to get the word out now," Schumer said. "The last thing we as parents should have to worry about when we leave our babies in the care of other people is whether we'll see them alive again. Unfortunately for some parents that's the case because child care providers, daycare workers and baby sitters are not always informed about SBS. Just as tragic, some parents themselves are the accidental perpetrators because they too are not educated about this."
Schumer said that Westchester has been hit hard by SBS. Last Wednesday, a New Rochelle man with a history of mental illness was sentenced to two to six years in state prison for shaking his 5-month-old son to death. The incident is the most recent of several that have occurred in Westchester in recent years, including two separate incidents in Yonkers in 2002 in which an 8-month-old-girl died at the hands of her mother's friend who was babysitting the child and a 9-month-old boy who was killed by his mother's boyfriend. In the case of the 8-month-old girl, the woman was a licensed day-care provider and the mother of five children. The baby boy was shaken to unconsciousness by a man who had been living with the baby and his mother for more than two months. He died three days later at Westchester Medical Center (WCMC). The WCMC trauma center is the hospital that most often treats SBS injuries in the Lower Hudson Valley and has begun in-hospital prevention programs to combat SBS.
As many as 1,400 babies a year are diagnosed as victims of SBS with thousands of others going unchecked. Often, the injuries occur when a parent or care-giver shakes the baby in a moment of frustration. In many cases, the responsible party is unaware of the potential for harm to the baby. According to the Epilepsy Association of Central Florida, one in every four shaken babies dies and in over fifty percent of all cases, a natural parent is the offender. For the babies who survive, serious and permanent brain damage is common. To combat the prevalence of SBS in Westchester and throughout the nation, Schumer today detailed the following three point plan:
• Launch a public awareness campaign to prevent SBS. Studies have shown that the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) "Back to Sleep" campaign has been highly successful in educating the public about the dangers and warning signs of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) through publications and multimedia public service announcements targeted towards families and care-givers. In the first five years of the campaign, the occurrence of SIDS was reduced by more than 42%. The campaign teaches that to reduce the risk of SIDS, babies should be placed on their backs in their cribs when they are put to sleep. Schumer today sent a letter to HHS urging it to launch a similar campaign for the prevention of SBS, which often occurs when care-givers do not know how to properly handle children. The campaign would teach parents and care-givers the dangers of shaking babies by utilizing the same media and educational outlets as the "Back to Sleep" campaign. • Devote $6 billion in federal money for child care programs including health and safety training. The national Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program provides child care funding in conjunction with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) which will be renewed this year by Congress. Schumer said he would support an amendment to TANF to increase funding for the CCDBG program to help improve training and facilities for child care services nationwide. Schumer said he would also urge Congress to pass new legislation renewing the CCDBG program that would require a greater percentage of funds be set aside to improve child care and training programs like SBS awareness. Schumer's plan would make this training standard nationwide. • Declare the third week of April "National Shaken Baby Syndrome Awareness Week." In 2001, the Senate passed a resolution declaring that a week be nationally dedicated to SBS awareness. However, this resolution was not binding and the week can only be officially recognized by the President. Schumer today sent a letter to the President asking that he issue a proclamation so that the week of April 18-24 be proclaimed "National Shaken Baby Syndrome Awareness Week" this year. The designation would present an opportunity for local and national organizations to hold events across the country and promote increased SBS awareness in the media.
Schumer was joined by Darryl Gibbs, the founder of the Cynthia Gibbs Foundation, an SBS awareness and prevention group founded in memory of his daughter Cynthia who died from being shaken by a licensed day care provider; George Lithco, who co-founded The Skipper Alliance in memory of his son Skipper whom he lost to SBS; Dr. Robin Altman, WCMC Chief of General Pediatrics; Dr. Michael Gewitz, WCMC Director of Pediatrics; and Dr. Joli Yuknek, WCMC Chief of Pediatric Emergency Medicine.