Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Lawmaker promotes abuse awareness

Jaquet sending message about shaken baby syndrome

Express Staff Writer

"It's OK to let a baby cry—it's not OK to shake it."

That's the message that state Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, is hoping to promote this month. April is National Child Abuse Awareness Month, and Jaquet has made promoting awareness of shaken baby syndrome the focus of the month in Idaho.

She sponsored a proclamation passed by the House meant to educate Idahoans on the dangers of shaking infants, and, on her urging, Gov. Butch Otter has signed a similar proclamation.

"There are things you can do, like take them for a ride in the car, give them a pacifier or make sure they are comfortable, and walk away for a minute to keep your cool," Jaquet said. "The big thing is not to lose control."

Jaquet said she first became aware of the issue two and a half years ago when a constituent approached her and told her about Brandi Whaley, a Shoshone woman whose daughter, Lauren, was allegedly shaken by a caretaker several years ago and suffered shaken baby syndrome.

Lauren, who is now 4, reportedly suffered two broken ribs, bleeding on her brain, blood pooling in her spine and hundreds of retinal hemorrhages in each eye.

"[She] was one of the lucky ones," Jaquet said.

One in four children with the syndrome die. The syndrome accounted for 10 infant deaths in Idaho last year.

Jaquet said young parents may not know that shaking a baby can cause such severe medical problems.

The median age for first-time mothers in Idaho is 24. Efforts to distribute literature on the syndrome to new mothers may help, Jaquet said.

Katherine Wutz:

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