By Jennipher Dickens

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 4, 2008

I’m pretty perturbed right now.

Most of you probably noticed that during the month of April, for National Child Abuse Prevention Month, I wrote most of my columns on child abuse and Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS).

I know that because of this, you all are probably tired of reading about it by now.

However, in light of comments I heard in the weeks following those columns, I have to say this one last thing.

Countless people – mostly mothers and fathers themselves – came up to me in those following weeks and told me how glad they were to see the topic covered, what a good job I was doing, etc. etc.

Actually, that part was kind of embarrassing.

I don’t write about these things for kudos; I do it to educate people… and it seems I’m not doing a very good job with said education.

I say this because to each of those people with children who complimented me on those columns – and on the SBS awareness event in April as well – I asked a simple question…

&uot;Have you talked to your spouse and your child’s caregivers about SBS?&uot;

The answer, sadly, was always no.

Most people I asked this were actually taken aback that I’d even suggested they would need to.

They all said the same things:

&uot;Oh, that’s not necessary.

They know better.&uot;

Upon hearing this, my brain was screaming, &uot;WHAT?! Are you kidding me?!&uot;

The whole message I’ve been trying to preach for the last 18 months is simple: never, ever assume that people magically &uot;know better&uot; or that they’re the type of person who &uot;wouldn’t do such a thing.&uot;

NO ONE ever thinks the person they leave their children with would do something like that – if they did, they wouldn’t leave their kids there, obviously.

Also, saying things like, &uot;I’d never leave my child in daycare&uot; is not realistic. My child is even in daycare, despite that it’s hard for me to trust people with him now, because as a single mom I HAVE to work.

However, you can bet your bottom dollar that each of the workers at that daycare were told about SBS before I let him stay there for five seconds!

They all know that if he cries, and they get even remotely frustrated, they are to put him down in a crib and walk away. They know that they can call me at any moment of any day and ask me to come get him, no matter what is going on… and they also have backup numbers on the off chance I’m not available.

I also call myself – several times each day, sometimes – to check on him and make sure everything is okay.

THAT’S how you prevent SBS – not by keeping your child locked up in a bubble, away from others.

And CERTAINLY not by just &uot;finding somebody you can trust.&uot;

From my own personal experience, I never thought my ex-husband was capable of shaking or hurting our son before it happened.

He was never violent, didn’t have a bad temper that I knew of, and was always exceedingly patient with me.

And yet, he still admittedly shook our seven-week-old son nearly to death, presumably because he was frustrated with his crying.

That’s my whole point in all of this… you have to educate everyone, every single person, who cares for your child, no matter how well you know them or how well-qualified they are.

Just because someone has kept children for years, or they have kids of their own, or grandkids, it does not mean they already &uot;know better.&uot;

There have been plenty of cases of licensed daycare providers with impeccable credentials who end up shaking babies to death in a moment of anger and frustration. There have been cases of grandparents shaking their grandchildren to death. Bottom line, you just never know… so educate everyone.

I don’t know how else I can make that clear.

Simply trusting your child’s caregivers isn’t enough; education and strong anger management techniques are the keys.

Talk to EVERYONE about the dangers of shaking a baby and work out a plan for when frustration gets to be overwhelming.

Do this with your husband or wife, your mom, your dad, your brothers and sisters and babysitters too (no matter how well-recommended they are)… I don’t know what more I can say to everyone to make that point clear.

Please, please… bottom line:

just educate.

That’s the whole point of SBS prevention.

Knowing about SBS yourself is less than one tenth of the battle… it’s talking to others about it that really keeps your kids (and other kids) safe from harm.

Jennipher Dickens is a Staff Writer for the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald.

She can be reached via email at or by calling (252) 332-7208.