Prevent Child Abuse-Illinois Expands "NEVER SHAKE A BABY!" Public Education Campaign

"NEVER SHAKE A BABY" -- for professionals in child welfare, this advice is probably unnecessary. But unfortunately, too many parents and caretakers don't realize the terrible damage that can be inflicted by shaking an infant or a very young child. For that reason, for the last several years, PREVENT CHILD ABUSE-ILLINOIS, the state chapter of the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse, has been spearheading a statewide campaign to gain greater public understanding of Shaken Baby Syndrome.

Most of the time, shaken baby syndrome occurs when adults, frustrated and angry with children, shake them violently. If you are a parent or ever care for a baby, it is important to know the dangers of shaking. You also need to tell everyone who cares for your baby, that it is never okay to shake the baby.

Young infants have very weak neck muscles and only gradually develop the strength to control their heavy heads. If babies are shaken, their heads wobble rapidly back and forth, which may cause brain damage and bleeding in and on the surface of the brain.

The consequences of shaking a child can include brain damage, blindness or eye trauma, paralysis, seizures, retardation, delay in normal development, and even death. In fact, the nine child death review teams that have been organized by DCFS throughout the state have examined a host of shaken baby cases with a view toward developing new and better strategies for dealing with this devastating problem.

Illinois was the first state in the U.S. to pass legislation calling for public education about Shaken Baby Syndrome. Governor Jim Edgar signed the law in September 1991. The legislation was drafted by then DuPage County State's Attorney Jim Ryan who is now the Illinois Attorney General.

An initial public education effort was a pilot program in DuPage County that offered literature about shaken baby syndrome to parents of every newborn. In early 1993, PREVENT CHILD ABUSE -- ILLINOIS launched a statewide campaign in cooperation with DCFS, the Illinois Department of Public Health, Parents Anonymous of Illinois, the GFWC Illinois Federal of Women's Clubs, Kiwanis clubs, local hospitals and other agencies.

The campaign has included billboards, bus cards, several sets of radio and television public service announcements, posters, videos, and brochures. Literature has been distributed to new parents through hospitals, pediatricians' offices, local public aid and public health departments, Lamaze classes, day care centers, WIC clinics, etc. In addition, staff and board members of PREVENT CHILD ABUSE-ILLINOIS have given numerous presentations in communities throughout Illinois, energizing local individuals and civic groups to spread the "Never Shake A Baby" message.

PREVENT CHILD ABUSE-ILLINOIS receives significant grant funds from DCFS. The nonprofit agency also receives funding from the Office of the State Attorney General and private benefactors.

Here's what you can do in your community to create awareness of Shaken Baby Syndrome

  • Distribute brochures throughout your community for young parents and other caregivers. Limited numbers of free brochures may be obtained from PREVENT CHILD ABUSE-ILLINOIS at 528 South 5th Street, Suite 211, Springfield, IL 62701,(217)522-1129.
  • Order Never Shake a Baby posters and place them in supermarkets, laundromats, and other high traffic areas.
  • Borrow a Never Shake a Baby video from PCA-IL to warn teens and young parents of the dangers of shaking an infant
  • Donate a video to your local hospital or public health department
  • Encourage day care providers to learn more about Shaken Baby Syndrome and to provide training for their staffs.
  • Order Never Shake a Baby bus cards for your community.
  • Hold a public awareness fair on child abuse prevention. Invite local pediatricians to make presentations about Shaken Baby Syndrome.
  • Later this year, PCA-IL will have new 30-sheet Never Shake a Baby billboards available for public service postings. Contact PCA-IL for details.