Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Prevention: US ranks 40th in newborn mortality...

Today brings news of a study on neonatal mortality by researchers at the World Health Organization.

The stats don't look good for us: the United States dropped from No. 28 to  No. 41 in the rankings of newborn death risk, and is now tied with Qatar, Croatia and United Arab Emirates.

There are some confounding trends: for instance, preterms births make up a larger proportion of US births and the mortality rate among preterm infants is higher.

While you might think such news might spark national protests, the protest focus today is an oil pipeline.

You know, the one where Darryl Hannah got arrested...

Some days, I wonder when babies stopped being part of the environment.

Link to PLoS article on neonatal mortality

Prevention: Utah's "Perp Talk" on SBS

The Salt Lake City Tribune reports on an interesting initiative in Utah that will use perpetrator testimony for prevention targeted at Latino communities.

Not the first time I've heard of a "perp talk" on SBS, but given the cross-cultural context, and the birthrate that is moving Hispanics towards the majority minority, would be very interesting to couple this effort with a good program evaluation to see if there is real impact or not.

North Logan man sent to prison for killing son
By Arrin Newton Brunson
Special to The Salt Lake City Tribune
First published Aug 30 2011 05:50PM

Logan • A North Logan man who fatally injured his 4-month-old son two years ago was sentenced Tuesday to prison for up to 15 years.

First District Court Judge Kevin Allen concurred with the recommendation of the Cache County Attorney’s Office that Francisco Javier Martinez serve no more than five years and that he receive credit for 21 months and 10 days already served in the Cache County Jail.

Martinez, 37, of North Logan, was initially charged with first-degree felony child abuse homicide and two other counts of child abuse for the November 2009 murder of his son, Jesus Yandel Martinez. But he agreed to a plea deal that resulted in a single, reduced second-degree felony child abuse homicide charge.

As part of that agreement, Martinez described and demonstrated to law enforcement officials and medical personnel the series of assaults on the infant beginning in October 2009 when he broke the baby’s leg, continuing a few weeks later when he broke two of his ribs and ending on Nov. 18, when the child died as a result of injuries to the brain from being slammed twice into Martinez’s lap.
Prosecuting attorney Andrew McAdams told the court that Martinez’ "full disclosure" about the abuses will be a powerful tool in the nationwide fight against child abuse known commonly as "shaken baby syndrome."
Martinez has described the incidents and demonstrated his abuses for law enforcement officials and doctors from Primary Children’s Medical Center, who will use the videotaped interviews to educate others, McAdams said. As part of the plea agreement, Martinez has also been ordered to participate in a public service announcement aimed at preventing child abuse in Latino families, where resources are often limited Martinez has provided information that will save lives, McAdams told the court.
"You can’t hurt a baby by letting the baby stay in the crib and cry. If you need to get out so that you don’t snap, go to your garage and let it cry for a half-hour…" McAdams said. "This type of case can and does happen to anybody — whether you are a criminal offender, whether you are a drug user or whether you are the most devout religious person on the planet. It can happen."
Defense attorney James J. Lee said the "daily grind" became difficult for Martinez, who was the full-time caregiver for his four children after he came to the United States illegally. Aside from the abuse of the infant son, Lee said Martinez was a loving husband and an affectionate father with no prior crimes, who cleaned the house and prepared the family’s meals.

"He did not have a social system. Francisco bottled up most of his emotions because he didn’t think there was another option," Lee said. "Each incident where there was an injury came on a day when the children were particularly misbehaving. On the final day, a couple of the children were crying and one was sick and vomiting. Ever since that day, Mr. Martinez has lived in virtual torment, living in the knowledge, the guilt of killing his baby."

Using a translator, Martinez tearfully apologized and expressed his love for his children. He said he had a record of good behavior at the jail and accepts full responsibility for his crimes.

"I regret everything. I don’t know what was going through my head. I killed my son," he said. "My biggest punishment is that I won’t get to talk to my son again."

Allen said this case was tragic because a small child is no longer allowed to pursue his potential.

"We’ll never know would have been a great political leader, innovative scientist, compassionate medical care provider or perhaps even an insightful student of the law. Whenever a child is murdered we lose the potential for that child to change the world," Allen said. "I can understand the frustration of being a father of young children. When you lost control the first time, I don’t understand how you could keep going, knowing the potential danger that you have inside of you."

Allen told Martinez that his life isn’t over and he urged the immigrant not to return to the U.S. after his deportation.

"Wherever you reside, I hope you are able to salvage some sort of life for yourself, that you are able to make yourself a better person," Allen said. "Frankly I think that is the only way you will receive a small measure of peace for what you have done."

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tales of Three SBS Survivors: Jay-J in New York, Ryan Corrigan in Iowa, Alec Van Beveren in Ohio

Two Three stories that give some insight to the hard challenges that follow survivors of inflicted head injury....

In North Tonowanda, New York, tells the story of Jay-J, who's only 19 months old.
There's nothing "typical" about a typical day for the boy they call "Jay-J..."
Jay J's stepgrandmother, Tabitha Retzer said, "On a day-to-day basis, he has five different medications, three times a day, he has to take. He's a special diet, so that has to all be weighed out -- everything to tenths of a gram."  Jay-J has Lennox-Gastaut Sydrome, a neurological condition that causes severe seizures.
"His worst day was almost 200 seizures. And that was just painful to watch," added Retzer.

Doctors believe Jay-J developed L-G-S after being abused by his father as an infant.   Jay-J's maternal grandparents, who now have full custody of him, have struggled to put that behind them.

Retzer said, "It breaks your heart to think about it, so you kind of have to put that aside, in order to be active for him in the moment. He needs me now, not to be dwelling on what happened to him six, eight, ten, twelve months ago."

Now, at 19 months old, Jay-J receives physical and occupational therapy, as well as special education.
And Eastern Iowa Life tells the story of Jeff and Kirsten Corrigan, and their son...
...Ryan, 10, has endured a lifetime of profound cognitive and physical disabilities due to being shaken when he was 9 months old by a trusted caregiver, Mark Francke.

Mostly confined to a wheelchair, Ryan is non-verbal, cannot walk or stand on his own and has limited use of his arms.  He receives physical therapy once a week to work on stretching, range of motion and functional activities.

“A child’s body is a changing body,” says Sarah Bengtson, Ryan’s physical therapist at Witwer Children’s Therapy Center, 1079 N. Center Point Rd., Hiawatha. “It’s important to work with his spasticity (muscle tightness) and tone.” 

Although integrated with his fourth-grade peers at Indian Creek Elementary in the Linn-Mar School District, he is in the Level 3, severe and profound special education program.

And today, the Advertiser-Tribune brings the story of Amy Laird and Alec Beveren in Ohio
Alec Van Beveren is about to turn 14, but he suffered a brain injury as an infant that permanently limited his neurological development to that of a 4-month-old baby. The injury was the result of shaken baby syndrome.

Although the man who harmed Alec was tried in court and served time in prison, Alec's mother, Amy Laird of Tiffin, has borne the responsibility of caring for her disabled son. Now that he is older and bigger, caring for him at home has become more difficult for the petite woman.

Amy also cares for other children in her home to supplement the family income. That way, she can keep Alec home from school if he is ill and take him to appointments. She said he still has frequent epileptic seizures.

"Some things bring on a seizure, like loud noises, or something startling him," Amy said. "He takes two kinds of medications and he has a vagal nerve stimulator."  Recently, Alec had surgery to replace the vagal nerve stimulator that was implanted in is chest in 2004. Wires run up his neck and into his brain to deliver electrical impulses every two minutes.

As Alec adjusts to the new stimulator, the time is to be adjusted. Amy said the doctor programs the device with a wand. Although the stimulator does not stop the seizures, it does shorten their length.  Amy also has special magnets she can swipe across the stimulator to stop an intense seizure.

Amy takes Alec to Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus for doctors' visits and numerous hospital stays. Two years ago, Alec had a spinal fusion to correct scoliosis and make him more comfortable in his chair.  Because his muscles and bones have not developed normally, he is not able to support his body weight even in a sitting position.

Early on, Alec had a feeding tube put in and an additional surgery to insert a valve to prevent vomiting. Now he has a smaller tube called a mickey button, which must be replaced every three months.

School Based Prevention: From Oklahoma City, Proof of the Need...Crystian Rivera

On Sunday, I posted about a program in Missouri that gives middle-school students parenting education and coping skills, and commented that we need it because kids are taking care of siblings.

Today, this story from in Oklahoma City proves the point, but there's nothing good about a story that ends "he is too young to get the death penalty." 

(It's the sort of story that gets around: see this UK News article)

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Police say Crystian Rivera confessed to shaking his baby sister to death, now he's one of the youngest inmates at the Oklahoma County jail.

The 13-year-old is accused of first degree murder. He is being treated as an adult, but he's not allowed to stay in a jail cell with an adult.

8/23/2011 Related Story: OKC Teen Accused Of Killing Baby Sister Won't Get Death Penalty

One week ago, Crystian Rivera was your typical 13-year-old at home playing video games. But on that day, police say he was watching his 9-month-old sister, while their parents were at work.

Detectives say the baby distracted Rivera from his game, he told police he got angry and confessed to shaking his sister.  Three days later she died at the hospital from a severe brain injury, and Rivera was taken to the Oklahoma County jail.

We went behind the doors where Rivera is being held, with 26 other juveniles charged with serious offenses. He's locked up in cell number one with one other person. Jail officials say he is checked on every 30 minutes.

Rivera was arrested just days before school started. He would have been an eighth grader at Mayfield Middle School. But now, his schooling will happen behind bars.

"We have a contract with the Oklahoma City public schools," said Mark Myers, Oklahoma County Sheriff's Department spokesman. "And they provide teachers that come out and teach our juvenile inmates."

Rivera is being held without bond. The Oklahoma County District Attorney's office has not been presented with charges yet.

Under state law, Rivera will undergo a youthful offender study to determine if he can be rehabilitated. If that is the case, he would be released when he is 18 and half years old. If not, he could be sentenced to life in prison. He is too young to get the death penalty.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Prevention Resources: St. Louis MO - School Based Coping/Prevention Education

From St. Louis, news today of of a school based parenting program that hopes to help middle and high school students learn how to cope with the frustrating moments of raising children.  via

I've been familiar with the Missouri Children's Trust Fund good work in the area of SBS prevention education for nearly a decade, and school is certainly a great place to learn positive parenting skills, as well as coping strategies.  Link: Missouri CTF campaign resources

Hopefully, COPE24 is engaged in the rigorous program evaluation practices that take a program from one that feels like it should work to one that has a solid evidence base showing it works efficiently and effectively.

We need effective school based parenting education as part of a comprehensive prevention strategy.

Kids don't just grow up to become parents, aunts or uncles someday: they babysit.  Now.

Presenting at a middle school in an affluent school district near our home, I was surprised to find that nearly 10% of the students babysat - quite literally,  helped care for a child under age one, often a sibling.  With 10 million children under age 5 in some form of child care for all or part of a day, finding good care for a baby is often daunting.  Sometimes, the search ends at home.

Whether they babysit this evening for a sibling or over the weekend to earn a bit of spending money, it's good that kids have the opportunity to get a structured exposure to positive parenting skills.

It's also good when parents don't just leave their cell phone number, but ask about coping skills, and let that babysitter know it's OK to call.
Unique School-based Parenting Program Targets Child Abuse Prevention in St. Louis Area

St.Louis - Launched in 2011, Changing Our Parenting Experience (COPE) is a riveting, reality-based parenting skills program aimed at middle and high school students to raise child abuse awareness and prevent teen pregnancy.

As middle and high school students across the region embark on another school year, thoughts of future parenting skills may not be top of mind. However, St. Louis-based non-profit organization COPE24 is trying to change that mentality in an effort to raise child abuse awareness and prevent teen pregnancy.

Launched in Missouri schools in early 2011, COPE24, which stands for Changing Our Parenting Experience, is a practical, effective two-week parenting skills program that is playing a key role in educating young people about the stresses of parenting and ways to notice and prevent child abuse. In March, the program was successfully piloted in six Missouri schools, and the organization has plans to reach even more children this school year.

Cope24 was founded by Rene Howitt after her experience as a foster parent led her to author the book, Whose Best Interest? A Fight to Save Two American Kids. After the book’s release in 2008, Howitt was appointed to the Missouri Children’s Justice Task Force, and she also acted as a child advocate, speaking to educators and students across Missouri and throughout the Midwest. The positive response she received from students prompted her to found the organization in 2010. Through her efforts and through the efforts of the COPE24 program, more than 13,000 high school students in St. Louis and throughout Missouri have been positively impacted.

"The COPE24 program helps kids in middle school and high school understand that parenting is very stressful, and it’s very easy to slip into neglectful abusive parenting," said Howitt. “By reaching out to adolescents, we hope to create awareness of child abuse and prevent teen pregnancy, which often translates in a higher rate of abuse and neglect among children by teen parents.”

The Cope24 program has already received positive feedback from the six schools it was piloted in earlier this year. Imagine College Prep High School, which is located in St. Louis City, is among the schools that have already received the program. An additional 12 school districts in Missouri; including Festus, Jennings and Wentzville/Timberland in the St. Louis area; and seven schools in Indiana, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wisconsin, have plans to implement the program this year.

According to the Children’s Defense Fund, a child is abused every two hours in Missouri, and at the beginning of the year, 5,451 children were reported to be victims of abuse and neglect. The number of children in foster care in Missouri is approximately 9,912. The annual Child Maltreatment report issued by the US Department of Health and Human Sources Children's Bureau states that in 2009, almost 2,000 children died from abuse, neglect, or single impulsive incidents, such as shaking an infant or suffocation. Infants and toddlers are most vulnerable to maltreatment. One-third of the 2009 child victims reported were younger than four years old, and one-fifth of them were between the ages of 4 and 7.

The COPE24 program aims to break the cycle of abuse through a series of materials that consist of a professionally produced DVD with ten parenting scenarios, including shaken baby, co-sleeping, bedtime challenges, potty training, tantrums, homework, negative parenting, and sexual abuse. Each of the ten videos was created by actors with a reality-based theme to effectively connect with today’s youth. The instructor's manual, written and vetted by experts in their fields, includes detailed support materials and exercises to bring the messages home. The fee of the materials is the only cost of the program to educators and other organizations who wish to implement it.

"My students had lots of questions after going through this two-week program, one scenario a day. The compelling dialogue and videos really help kids 'get it'," according to Kristi Hodson, one Missouri high school teacher who participated in the pilot program.

Howitt feels that the more preparation young people receive about parenting, the less likely they will be to start their own families at a young age. "We also want to help kids and adults understand that drugs and alcohol play a significant role in child abuse, and that learning good parenting skills can really help down the line," she said.

The COPE24 Parenting Skills program is discounted through Aug. 31, 2011, to encourage schools nationwide to sign up, bring the program to their students this year and help lessen the strain on school budgets (purchase orders accepted). COPE24’s ultimate goal is to provide the program free of charge to schools nationwide.

As a result, the organization is hosting its first fundraising event at Over/Under Bar at 911 Washington Ave. in downtown St. Louis. From 6:30 – 10:00 p.m. on Monday, September 26, Over/Under will donate 15 percent of its drink proceeds to benefit the COPE24 mission. Complimentary food will be served from 6:30 – 8:00 p.m., and the event will also feature a 50/50 raffle.

For more information about the fundraising event, or for order details for both the COPE24 program and Whose Best Interest? The Fight to Save Two American Kids, please visit

COPE24, a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational and charitable organization based in St. Louis, Mo, is also exploring grants and funding to provide communities, hospitals, child advocacy groups, and churches with the program. Howitt is also available to speak to organizations concerned about the health and welfare of our youth.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Prevention: Legislative Champions

The summer brings news that two legislators who have been champions for prevention legislation are moving on...

In New York, Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, who sponsored a bill calling for education for new parents in 2000 and who played an important role in securing funding for the expansion of the program developed by Mark Dias at Children's Hospital of Buffalo into the Upstate New York SBS Prevention Program, left the Assembly in July, after 19 years of service, to become Senior Vice President for Regional Economic Development at the Empire State Development Corporation.

In Virginia, Representative Glenn Oder is leaving Virginia's House of Delegates to become the new executive director of the Fort Monroe Authority. HCR 632, a legislative bill introduced by Rep. Oder in 2010 at the request of Steve Stowe and Shaken Baby Syndrome of Virginia, Inc., directed Virginia's Joint Commission on Health Care to study the costs of Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) and identify best practices in reducing the incidence of SBS in Virginia.

Thanks to both for their efforts on behalf of preventing SBS.

We'll be needing some replacements...nominations, anyone?

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Prevention: Enlisting Celebrity Parents in Prevention - What Would Angelina Jolie Do?

There's a great fascination with celebrities.

That fascination is amplified when the celebrities have offspring.  What better evidence that the payment offered for the first photo of the child of an A-List celeb?  Head of the list: Forbes reports People magazine paid $4.1 million for the Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt baby photos. 

And it goes on: simple actions of celeb parents can have significant impact on the actions of other parents. Link Significant effort goes into placing baby products with celeb parents. Link .  For example, when the Beckhams named their most recent child Harper Seven, sale of Harper Lee's "To Kill A Mockingbird" jumped 123% when his mother said it was her favorite book.

Celebrities are making use of the opportunity not only to reap the benefits themselves, as Forbes reports, but to support favored causes.

The latest twist? A QR tag on celeb clothes donated to a high-end used clothes sale allows browsers to scan the code and view a video interview with the celeb, explaining what the article of clothing means to them or where the money will go.. Link (he article includes a video of Annie Lennox talking about the dress she donated...)

In the case of Oxfam, it may mean higher prices and a better understanding of how Oxfam uses donations to support its activities.

Wouldn't it be interesting to do the same for baby clothing, gently used by the child of a celeb parent, but offer a video explaining how that parent coped with challenges of raising a young child, including moments of frustration and anger.

Wouldn't you be curious to know how Pierce Brosnan coped with a colicky baby (reportedly, the former 007 did have that experience...of course, teen parents might be interested in someone closer in time)?

PS. The fascination is cross-cultural too Bollywood babies

Point of reference: measures website traffic - it ranks #429, while the National SBS Center ranks #19 million or so, despite excellent resources.