Health

A Split Second of Anger Delivers a Fate No Child Deserves

Juan was just seven weeks old when he suffered multiple rib, clavicle and skull fractures, eye damage and brain injuries – tragically at the hand of his parent. Every day children are placed into the foster care system in San Diego County after suffering abuse or neglect by a parent, other family member or caregiver.

“It’s hard to imagine anyone doing this to a child – especially a parent or another adult who has been entrusted to care for them,” said San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Horn. “It only takes seconds of anger or frustration to cause a lifetime of setbacks and trauma for a vulnerable child.”

Approximately 20 percent of abusive head trauma cases are fatal in the first few days after the injury. The majority of those who survive are left with handicaps ranging from learning disorders and behavior changes to profound developmental delays, paralysis, blindness or a permanent vegetative state.

“It is commonly recognized that abusive head trauma is the most common cause of death and accounts for most long-term disabilities in infants and young children who suffer from physical abuse,” said Dr. Premi Suresh, Assistant Medical Director of the Chadwick Center for Children & Families at Rady Children’s Hospital. “An infant’s brain is immature and the developing cells within the brain are susceptible to damage and even death from violent shaking.”

The County recently produced a video on how to prevent abusive head trauma for public health nurses to use on their home visits with newly and expectant parents. It’s part of the County’s Live Well, San Diego! initiative, which focuses on the safety of children and the education of parents to strengthen families. The video will also be played in the lobbies of the County’s Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) facilities.

“We hope to share this important prevention message with as many parents as possible,” said Debra Zanders-Willis, HHSA’s Director of Child Welfare Services. “We know parents might be under multiple stressors with the job market and the economy, and we want to remind them that it’s okay to take a break to separate themselves from their children if they are feeling stressed out.

“Always arrange a safe situation for the child first such as putting them in a crib and walk away if you need just a few-minute break to regain your calmness, or ask someone you trust such as a family member to watch the child for a few hours so you can have a little time to yourself.”

The San Diego County Child Abuse Hotline is (858) 560-2191.