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Troy L. Wheeler

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Strategy: Shaken Baby Awareness, Advice, and Advocacy

STRATEGY Promote awareness and prevention of Shaken Baby Syndrome with a strategic media campaign, and develop a community education . . .

Strategy

Promote awareness and prevention of Shaken Baby Syndrome with a strategic media campaign, and develop a community education curriculum to target at-risk audiences.

Community Problem Addressed

A study conducted in 1991 by Dr. Jacy Showers showed that 25-50 percent of the American public did not know the dangers of shaking infants--the most fatal form of child abuse among kids under the age of one. Shaking an infant, even for just a few seconds, can result in severe damage to the child, from blindness, to paralysis, to mental retardation.

Key Components

In 1992, the Midwest Resource Center partnered with the St. Paul Minneapolis Junior League to develop the Shaken Baby Awareness Program. Staff works to expose the dangers of repetitive or vigorous shaking of an infant, which can sometimes lead to death.

The initiative began with a slogan, progressed with the production of announcements and billboards, and eventually evolved into a full-scale community education campaign. Ads are placed on billboards, bus shelters, milk cartons, men's restrooms, and local radio programs. Advocates saturate the community with messages speaking against the abusive behavior that causes Shaken Baby Syndrome.

Project staff has also developed a curriculum to educate target age groups about child abuse and caregiver stress management. The partners working on this project identified sixth grade to be the typical year for youths to begin their first babysitting jobs and developed an age-specific curriculum to prevent abuse among this group of caretakers. The curriculum, "Fragile: Handle With Care," offers students information on what to expect from newborns, how to deal with the accompanying stress of a crying infant, and the specifics of Shaken Baby Syndrome. The program also targets audiences in residential centers where young teens parents live, juvenile detention facilities, and LaMaze classes.

Key Partnerships

It was essential to have a medical partner (child abuse specialist), as well as a community partner from a trusted social service organization, leading the Shaken Baby campaign.  All grant writing was delegated to the local Children's Hospital, and the Minneapolis Public School District aided in the dissemination of information by putting the program's tapes into their daycare licensing requirements and allowing volunteers to make presentations in area schools. The Midwest Resource Center brought in a child psychologist, a classroom teacher (sixth-grade level), and a consultant writer to develop the curriculum. 

Potential Obstacles

Staff was troubled at first by a lack of cooperation with partners and schools to incorporate the curriculum in the program. Finding partners that will fit it in to their existing classes has been difficult. Every minute of the school day is strictly accounted for. Making changes to the curriculum, especially anything greater than half an hour, is a huge task.

Signs of Success

Sixty-five thousand copies of the video, "Portrait of Promise: Preventing Shaken Baby Syndrome," have been disseminated throughout the country since 1995. Through the Project's School Campaign, Shaken Baby presentations reach around 2,000 kids per year, in 22 schools in the Twin Cities. Fifteen-hundred youth in correction facilities and LaMaze classes are exposed to the curriculum annually. Many of those LaMaze groups have incorporated it into their prenatal classes.

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