Local panel uses grant for shaken baby syndrome awareness

Submitted photo
Maternal health care nurses Rushess Husom and Betty-Jo Thorsten with “Baby Grace,” an educational tool used to show the effects of shaken baby syndrome.

Noelle Olson
ECM Post Review

Shaken baby syndrome is the leading cause of death in children under the age of 1.

The Chisago County Citizens Review Panel receives a $3,000 grant every year from the state of Minnesota for child protection. This year, the panel opted to buy educational materials to raise awareness for shaken baby syndrome.

“More children die of shaken baby syndrome in the U.S. than they do in automobile crashes, poisoning, fire, electrocution or drowning combined,” said Cheryl Jelinek, from the panel. “One in 4 children that this happens to will die, and the ones that survive, 80 percent of them will have cerebral palsy, mental retardation or impaired motor and cognitive skills.”

According to the National Center for Shaken Baby Syndrome, the No. 1 trigger is frustration with a baby’s crying, and a violent overreaction to a child’s wails is 100 percent preventable.

The state of Minnesota has five counties with active citizen review panels — Winona, Hennepin, Ramsey, Washington and Chisago. According to Jelinek, each year the panel decides on a project for child protection.

“We want to educate the public about shaken baby syndrome, so we purchased educational materials including brochures, posters, refrigerator magnets, diaper bag tags and lifelike baby dolls,” she said.

“We are really excited about the diaper bag tags,” Jelinek said. “If you leave the baby with a caregiver, you leave the diaper bag with reminders about caring for babies.”

“Baby Grace” is a lifelike baby doll that the panel purchased; it is an educational tool that demonstrates what happens to a baby when it is shaken.

“It shows how shaking a baby affects different areas of the brain and just how vulnerable a baby’s brain really is,” Jelinek said. “It’s like a yolk inside of an egg.”

Nancy Dahlin, the director of Health and Human Services in Chisago County, said the county is thrilled that the panel decided to spend the grant money on training materials for the prevention of shaken baby syndrome.

“Our hope is for other groups to borrow the dolls for training purposes, like babysitting classes, life education courses at the high school, and individualized education with child protection cases,” Dahlin said. “A lot of families need support, and education and the dolls is one set of tools in the tool kit.”

The panel plans on bringing its training materials to educational booths around Chisago County, law enforcement, baby bazaars and the Health and Services booth at the Chisago County Fair.

The Maternal Child Health Program is an accredited home visiting program in Chisago County for families with children ages 6 and under will also be using these training materials.

“It’s a home-based model where maternal health nurses go to the houses, and we expect to be taking the dolls to give these families individual instruction,” Dahlin said. “The possibilities are endless how these dolls will be able to help education.”

The Chisago County Citizens Review Panel is currently accepting new members.

“We are looking for new people to join our Citizens Review Panel, and if anyone is interested in helping out children is welcome to come join us,” Jelinek said.

For more information on shaken baby syndrome, go to www.dontshake.org.