Prevent Child Abuse NJ would like to share a story to paint a picture of why we work tirelessly every day to bring child abuse prevention efforts to all parents, caregivers and professionals across NJ.
January 8th, 2009 a beautiful baby boy named Joey entered this world in a hospital in NJ. His family was overjoyed with his arrival and their new addition to their family. His grandmother, Amy*, was thrilled to have a grandson she could dote on.
Two months later, Joey was taken to the emergency room with bleeding on his brain and behind his eyes. His head was swollen and they weren’t sure if Joey could see or hear. He was a victim of Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) at the hands of his father; his father whom had also been abused as a child until adopted by Amy when he was 6 years old. Amy is the proud grandmother of Joey, yet also the mother of the abuser. This incident forever changed their lives as Amy now works each day to protect Joey, who is now a SBS survivor and just turned 4 years old this January.
In a complex story involving family dynamics, devastation and an intense determination to protect her grandson, Amy has become an active volunteer and strong voice to prevent shaken baby syndrome and infant abuse. She reached out to PCANJ as soon as she learned the Period of PURPLE crying program was coming to New Jersey; a program designed to prevent SBS.
In 2012, Prevent Child Abuse NJ (PCANJ) launched a shaken baby syndrome/infant abuse prevention program called the Period of PURPLE crying in 2 New Jersey hospitals: Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston and Newark Beth Israel in Newark. This program is effective at helping parents understand newborn crying and also teaching them about how to cope with the stress of a crying baby. Anyone who has ever been around a crying baby (add in no sleep for weeks with seemingly no end in sight!) can relate to the frustration of not being able to calm the baby down.
Fortunately, the PURPLE program teaches parents there IS an end in sight and that this is a period that all babies go through in their development. The cost is $2 per family for the hospital; an investment we think is worth it to save a child like Joey from having to ensure a lifetime of surviving the injuries from SBS.
Amy wrote: “As difficult as this is for me to re-live, I feel it is absolutely necessary, in the hopes of preventing another family from experiencing the tragic results of SBS. I’m all too familiar with the affects of child abuse on generations, and therefore, am willing to help in any way possible”.
PCANJ wants to bring this effort to more hospitals in NJ and with your support we can show that Prevention Matters… because Joey matters.
To support the Period of PURPLE crying program in New Jersey please visit our Period of PURPLE site.
If you are interested in knitting purple newborn caps for PCANJ’s Click for Babies in NJ campaign, please visit our Click for Babies site.
If you or someone you knows works in a NJ hospital that may be interested in bringing the Period of PURPLE crying to families who deliver there, please contact Gina Hernandez.
*Name has been changed to protect identity.
Recently, Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ) released a report that finds that our youngest children –those younger than age 3 — were far more likely to die from child abuse and spend longer times in foster care than older children. The report is a valuable wake-up call that raises public awareness about the high levels of stress for parents with young children and a number of long-standing weaknesses in the foster care system. The report calls for better training of child welfare workers and special attention to the special issues of babies and toddlers.
Prevent Child Abuse-New Jersey supports these excellent recommendations and while they may be necessary, they are not sufficient to fully address the challenge of child maltreatment that lies before us.
Child maltreatment – most notably physical abuse and neglect – happens to younger children in all settings for many of the same reasons it happens in the foster care system: younger children can present some of the most difficult challenges for parents because their communication skills are limited and their behavior can be trying even for the most stable and successful parents. And many parents lack sufficient knowledge about healthy child development to be a positive parent.
Federal statistics and NJ show that the highest rate of maltreatment happens to children under age 4 and the 80% of all fatalities from abuse occur to children younger than.
So certainly, ongoing reforms are needed in the foster care system to reduce the risk of child abuse for our youngest children.
But maybe more importantly, we have the opportunity to PREVENT these tragedies from occurring before a foster placement becomes necessary and before a child becomes a victim.
Improving the training of child welfare workers can be helpful, but strengthening proven prevention programs like home visitation would yield better results. Although home visitation programs have been expanded, we are only able to serve a small percentage of families in high-risk situations. We should also consider requiring foster parents to participate in home visitation programs to more closely monitor the stress level in this new temporary family setting, which would provide added education and support to prevent a tragedy.
The foster care system is a result of our most fundamental failure to prevent child abuse. Our first priority should be to strengthen our efforts to prevent child abuse from ever happening. Research about prevention programs shows they save lives, improve a child’s long-term health outcomes and success, and save taxpayers money by preventing the downstream costs of foster care, law enforcement, health care, treatment for substance abuse and mental health issues, incarceration and unemployment.
Anytime there is a case of child abuse, we need to back up from the crime and ask, “What could have been done to prevent this from ever happening?” In addition to helpful recommendation by ACNJ about reforms in the child welfare systems, there are many valuable opportunities to do better to prevent child abuse in NJ.
A series of troubling headlines came out recently that raise questions about the current debate in New Jersey and the country about whether we can afford much of the heart of our current government services, including health care, education, and defense.
The World Health Organization published a new report that compares the rates of infant mortality internationally. The United States ranked 41st among all countries, and was outranked by Cuba, Poland, Malaysia, Lithuania and South Korea. One of the difficult challenges related to infant mortality in the U.S. is the high rate of pre-term delivery — research shows that families living in poverty face an increased risk for pre-term delivery and that their access to high quality health care to deal with a high-risk birth is restricted.
The second headline, based on a new report from Rutgers University, states: “More unemployed people have given up”. The report finds that many unemployed are feeling desperate and helpless in their search for a job. A co-author of the report states: “The sense of desperation and feeling of helplessness in our respondents are almost palpable… Many are watching the erosion of what it took a lifetime to build. They are out of work and almost out of hope for themselves and the nation’s economy”.
A third headline, from USA Today last year, reads: “Tax bills in 2009 at lowest level since 1950”. The article begins: “Amid complaints about high taxes and calls for a smaller government, Americans paid their lowest level of taxes last year since Harry Truman’s presidency”. The story continues that the current rate of 9.2% of all personal income “is far below the historic average of 12% for the last half-century”.
These stories come during a time when many leaders are demanding even deeper and more dramatic cuts in health care and all government programs. They insist we cannot afford these programs and that individuals in the US should be on their own to buy health insurance… which, unfortunately, is unaffordable for most. The new cuts would certainly target Medicaid, making it even more difficult than it is today for the most vulnerable families to get the basic health services they need, including prenatal care and pediatric services for their children.
The call for cuts in basic support for families underscores the feeling that many of our nation’s leaders seem to have lost the sense of compassion that lies at the heart of the country’s founding, and which has been reflected in many of its greatest achievements, including civil rights, Medicare, social security and recoveries from natural disasters.
All of these proposed cuts would increase the stress faced by moms, dads and children living in neighborhoods in nearly every community in the U.S. Long-term unemployment has been shown to lead to anger, frustration, and depression — all circumstances that harm children and increase the risk for child abuse or neglect. Further cuts in basic health care will make it harder for parents to get medical care for their children when they are sick and weaken an already weak safety net for health care. The rate of infant mortality will only increase.
Ghandi once stated: “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members,” and all of these headlines raise fundamental questions about how the U.S. cares for its children.
A number of national organizations, including Prevent Child Abuse America, The Child Welfare League, the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, and the Humane Association, are calling for a new “movement”, one that asks that basic question about how we care, as a society, for our children. The movement recognizes that children do not vote, are not represented by powerful lobbyists and do not contribute millions of dollars for election campaigns… and thus, they often get lost in the debate. The new campaign asks the question: “What does our country need to do to ensure that every child has an equal opportunity for healthy growth and development?” The goal is to increase the public dialogue about where children fit into the policy decisions being made in Washington and in our state capitals, and to build greater accountability into the decisions made by policymakers are we go forward. Maybe even more than that, it can restore just a bit of that basic compassion that seems to have been lost. For more information about the Movement or to sign a pledge to join, go to: www.movementforchildren.org.