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A Secret Safe Place For Newborns

Over a two-year period, the Mobile County Child Death Review Team, under the leadership of John Tyson, District Attorney, reviewed 10 infant deaths. These babies were found abandoned along the Gulf Coast, left many times by mothers able to hide their pregnancy but not the child. Irrational decision making left these moms with no other alternative but to get rid of the baby - a tragedy for all concerned.

Vowing to stop such a horrific trend, John Tyson partnered with a local NBC Channel 15 news reporter, Jodi Brooks to create A Secret Safe Place For Newborns. The solution was so simple. Newborn babies, up to 72 hours old, can be brought to any local hospital's emergency department. At that time the infant will be medically evaluated and remain there in a safe haven until child protection workers can find his or she an appropriate home. The caregiver is asked no questions and as long as the child has not been abused, there will be no law enforcement investigation opened. Total secrecy is assured.

Jodi Brooks spent untold hours communicating this information to the public. Her commitment to a program that could help save a baby's life and save a mother from a lifetime of guilt was unwavering. The community embraced this program whole-heartedly. Already over the last year, 6 babies have entered this program. These are 6 precious lives that now have a chance for a healthy future. The hospitals, law enforcement, and child protection agency of Mobile and Baldwin County should all be applauded for their good work!

Both John Tyson and Jodi Brooks have told their story of Secret Safeplace across our country. As a result, many states have passed legislation to implement identical programs in their area. This is a good thing!

Alabama became one of those states in May 2000! That's the date that House Bill #115 was passed into Alabama Public Law #00-760. View Alabama's Safe Place for Newborns Law.

For more information, visit Secret Safe Place for Newborns.

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Alabama's Shaken Baby Syndrome Campaign

Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) is the violent shaking of an infant. Injuries can result in brain swelling, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, developmental delays, blindness, hearing loss, paralysis, and even death.

Heads and necks of young infants are susceptible to head trauma because their muscles are not fully developed and their brain tissue is exceptionally fragile. Their small size further adds to the risk of injury. Vigorous shaking can cause bleeding behind the eyes and inside the head and can literally tear vital brain pathways resulting in permanent damage or death.

Research has shown that the majority of SBS occurs when a parent or caretaker is frustrated or angry and the baby cries inconsolably. Almost 80% of the perpetrators are males and more than 60% of the victims are male. Offenders cross racial and socioeconomic lines. Shaken Baby Syndrome accounts for an estimated 10-12% of all infant deaths. Roughly 25% of all babies with SBS die. According to the Alabama Department of Human Resources, eleven Alabama babies died during the year 2000 as a result of being shaken and an untold number of survivors will suffer lifelong disabilities.

The tragic stories told by those who have shaken babies continue to have one common theme - they did not mean to hurt the baby and they had no idea shaking would cause such devastating harm. It is estimated that 25-50% of parents and caretakers are not aware of the effects of shaking a baby. According to the Alabama Child Death Review System, many SBS deaths had histories of multiple trips to area emergency departments with mysterious symptoms such as seizures, lethargy, or unusual breathing. Physicians misdiagnosed the symptoms and the babies returned to unsafe environments in which they later died. The medical community has admitted they often forget to include SBS as a possible diagnosis.

In January 2001, a coalition with both public and private partners began a year-long statewide SBS awareness, identification, and prevention campaign. The coalition partners include: Corporate Foundation for Children, Children's Trust Fund, Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services, Alabama Child Death Review System, Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR), Alabama District Attorney Association, Alabama Association of Realtors, Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, Prevent Child Abuse - Alabama and March of Dimes.

The campaign will produce five television public service announcements, depicting scenarios that may lead to shaking an infant and positive actions to avert such injuries. Educational training materials, such as a SBS Awareness Presentation will be scripted for presentation to the lay population, while a SBS Professional Presentation will focus on the needs of professionals who are responsible for the welfare of infants. Over 100 billboards, 100,000 brochures, radio and television public service announcements (PSA), and newspaper articles will all carry the same message, "Never EVER Shake a Baby!" An emergency department SBS training curriculum targeted toward helping physicians better identify SBS signs and symptoms will also be offered.

The following is an overview of the SBS Campaign:

Shaken Baby Syndrome Prevention Campaign

"Never Ever Shake A Baby!"

Shaken Baby Syndrome Coalition

  • Alabama Association of Realtors
  • Corporate Foundation for Children
  • March of Dimes
  • Children’s Trust Fund
  • Prevent Child Abuse - Alabama
  • Dept. of Rehabilitation Services
  • Dept. of Forensic Sciences
  • Dept. of Human Resources
  • Dept. of Public Health - Child Death Review

Year-Long Statewide Campaign

  • Four Television PSAs
  • A new PSA will be introduced the first of every quarter with the previous PSAs continuing to run.
  • 100,000 Brochures
  • Radio PSAs
  • 100 Billboards
  • Scripted Canned Presentations
  • Public (Service organizations, high school teachers, birthing classes, etc.)
  • Professional (health care providers, day care workers, DHR, paramedics, law enforcement, etc.)
  • Statewide Training of the Trainers
  • County Health Departments, Child Advocacy Centers, CDR Team Members, DHR, etc.
  • Emergency Department SBS Signs/Symptoms Training

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