The Blog

Prevention of Child Abuse Matters Because Joey Matters

i Mar 11th No Comments by

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.

Worldwide Day of Play

i Sep 21st No Comments by

The following piece was written by Caitlin Perry, a graduate student of Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and former intern of Prevent Child Abuse-New Jersey.

On Saturday, September 25, 2011, on-air broadcasting will stop at Nickelodeon, Nicktoons, TeenNick, and Nick Jr., as well as online at,,, and Nickelodeon and its networks are creating this “blackout” in an effort to support Worldwide Day of Play (WWDP). Children require 60 minutes of physical activity every day, and Worldwide Day of Play encourages children and their families to participate in physical activity rather than sit in front of a television or computer screen.

One in three children in the United States is overweight or obese. Increasing physical activity during childhood decreases the risk for overweight and obesity, as well as weight-related health problems later in life. In addition to providing an opportunity to be active, limiting screen time cuts down on the number of advertisements for unhealthy food and beverages that children view. This reduction in exposure to food advertisements may protect children against marketing schemes and play a role in improving their diets.

With overweight and obesity rates increasing in the United States, Worldwide Day of Play is taking a step toward obesity prevention. Families can spend the day being active together, and parents can model and promote physical activity as part of a healthy lifestyle.

Outdoor Activities

  • Basketball, soccer, flag football, baseball/t-ball – These organized sports teach children the importance of team work, while offering a fun opportunity to exercise outside.
  • Take a trip to the park – Parks offer numerous ways to be active; swing across the monkey bars, run around, or push each other on the swings.
  • Obstacle course – Parents and children can set up an outdoor obstacle course in their own backyards. Stations may include dribbling a ball around cones, jumping through hula hoops on the ground, playing horseshoes, and sack races.
  • Go for a bike ride – Biking is a great cardio activity that also helps improve balance. Make sure that everyone wears a helmet for safety.
  • Walk after meals – Walking around the block after breakfast, lunch, or dinner encourages both family togetherness and physical activity.

Indoor Activities

  • Jump rope – Jumping rope is a great cardio workout, can be done inside, and is fun!
  • Hula hoop – Have a hula hoop contest; whoever can keep the hoop up longest wins.
  • Take the stairs – Avoid using elevators and escalators while out and about during the day. Use the stairs for an extra physical activity opportunity.
  • Follow the leader – Family members take turns being the leader while the rest of the family follows. The leader can perform different fun and silly actions (jumping jacks, skipping, etc.) while moving around the house.
  • Dance – Turn on some music and get moving!

Encourage your family to participate in Worldwide Day of Play. Keep a tally of your different activities during the day, and see how many different ways you can be active!

Spending time with your family away from the television is not only good for your physical health, but it helps strengthen the emotional health of your family as well. The bonds that form when parents and children play together help protect families during stressful times when child abuse is more likely to occur. Prevent Child Abuse-New Jersey commends initiatives like Worldwide Day of Play that promote valuable family togetherness time, and we encourage you to set aside time every day to play with your children.

Preventing Childhood Obesity: Prenatal Support, Education Initiatives Must Start Early

i Jul 26th No Comments by

The following piece, written by Patty Mojta, Project Coordinator, and Caitlin Perry, Graduate Intern, here at Prevent Child Abuse-New Jersey, is a response to the article “State Intervention in Life-Threatening Childhood Obesity” by Lindsey Murtagh, JD, MPH and David S. Ludwig, MD, PhD as published in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

The Journal of the American Medical Association this month published a controversial article regarding the status of the approximately 2 million super-obese children in this country (“State intervention in life-threatening childhood obesity”).

Citing the urgency of the severe medical complications facing these children at or exceeding the 99th percentile for Body Mass Index, the authors advocate for the state to intervene in order to correct neglectful or irresponsible parenting.

While interventions such as in-home support and parent training are preferred, the authors conclude that some cases will warrant more severe action, specifically gastric bypass surgery or foster care. It is a sad state of affairs when we find ourselves weighing the pros and cons of these two options for our nation’s children.

Although both of these options are unpleasant, the authors opt for foster care as the less-invasive option. The authors of the article caution against the unknown risks of surgery and the ethical considerations of putting children through “irreversible and invasive” surgery.

Option B is no better. Even under the most justified circumstances, removing a child from his or her family causes devastating and inevitable emotional trauma. There is no action more invasive than to uproot a child from his home, separating him from his attachment figure for an unknown length of time. Removal of a child should be reserved for the most extreme cases of child safety, only after all other efforts have been exhausted.

Unfortunately, the dangers of childhood obesity are very real, and there may be cases in which one of these crucial options will be selected. Sadly, if we don’t do something to prevent obesity, cases like these will no longer be rare.

With the number of severely obese children continuing to increase, the solution cannot be to increase the capacity of foster care or to open new hospitals to operate on our kids. These options are too costly, in more ways than one. Instead, we need to focus on ways to prevent childhood obesity, to save children from suffering either of these traumatic experiences.

We must implement a new nutrition agenda, going beyond diet and physical activity to decrease childhood obesity and focus on prevention. The best approach is one that is multidisciplinary with successful linkages among the private and public sectors, the entertainment industry, agriculture, nutrition and health. Proactive strategies are necessary to prevent obesity.

Research has shown that the risk for childhood obesity begins in the womb. The first 1,000 days of a child’s life, from conception to 2 years of age, are a critical developmental period. It is within this time span that first steps to prevent childhood obesity can and should be taken. In fact, the mother’s diet both before and during pregnancy can have a lifelong impact on her child’s health. Therefore, interventions that begin during pregnancy can shape the earliest childhood experiences and place children on a trajectory for improved health outcomes.

Twenty-five years of research supports successful and creative programs that include parents in the solution. There currently are many programs in New Jersey that support children and families, recognizing that children need their parents and caregivers and that parents and caregivers also need support.

Parents generally want the best for their children, and, when properly nurtured and supported, will act in their children’s best interests. Just as parents play a role in the negative behaviors that lead to obesity, parents must be at the center of efforts to prevent childhood obesity.

Through home visiting, parent support, and parent education programs that target pregnant women and families with very young children, we can equip parents with the information and linkages they need to properly nourish their children and set them on a path for improved health outcomes.

Investment in prevention efforts, in programs that educate parents long before obesity becomes a problem, is the most effective, ethical, and respectful approach. Prevention programming can keep kids healthy and keep families together. This is the only option we should be considering for our nation’s children.