Prevent Child Abuse NJ would like to share a story to paint a picture of why we work tirelessly every day to bring child abuse prevention efforts to all parents, caregivers and professionals across NJ.
January 8th, 2009 a beautiful baby boy named Joey entered this world in a hospital in NJ. His family was overjoyed with his arrival and their new addition to their family. His grandmother, Amy*, was thrilled to have a grandson she could dote on.
Two months later, Joey was taken to the emergency room with bleeding on his brain and behind his eyes. His head was swollen and they weren’t sure if Joey could see or hear. He was a victim of Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) at the hands of his father; his father whom had also been abused as a child until adopted by Amy when he was 6 years old. Amy is the proud grandmother of Joey, yet also the mother of the abuser. This incident forever changed their lives as Amy now works each day to protect Joey, who is now a SBS survivor and just turned 4 years old this January.
In a complex story involving family dynamics, devastation and an intense determination to protect her grandson, Amy has become an active volunteer and strong voice to prevent shaken baby syndrome and infant abuse. She reached out to PCANJ as soon as she learned the Period of PURPLE crying program was coming to New Jersey; a program designed to prevent SBS.
In 2012, Prevent Child Abuse NJ (PCANJ) launched a shaken baby syndrome/infant abuse prevention program called the Period of PURPLE crying in 2 New Jersey hospitals: Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston and Newark Beth Israel in Newark. This program is effective at helping parents understand newborn crying and also teaching them about how to cope with the stress of a crying baby. Anyone who has ever been around a crying baby (add in no sleep for weeks with seemingly no end in sight!) can relate to the frustration of not being able to calm the baby down.
Fortunately, the PURPLE program teaches parents there IS an end in sight and that this is a period that all babies go through in their development. The cost is $2 per family for the hospital; an investment we think is worth it to save a child like Joey from having to ensure a lifetime of surviving the injuries from SBS.
Amy wrote: “As difficult as this is for me to re-live, I feel it is absolutely necessary, in the hopes of preventing another family from experiencing the tragic results of SBS. I’m all too familiar with the affects of child abuse on generations, and therefore, am willing to help in any way possible”.
PCANJ wants to bring this effort to more hospitals in NJ and with your support we can show that Prevention Matters… because Joey matters.
To support the Period of PURPLE crying program in New Jersey please visit our Period of PURPLE site.
If you are interested in knitting purple newborn caps for PCANJ’s Click for Babies in NJ campaign, please visit our Click for Babies site.
If you or someone you knows works in a NJ hospital that may be interested in bringing the Period of PURPLE crying to families who deliver there, please contact Gina Hernandez.
*Name has been changed to protect identity.
At a recent neighborhood barbecue, a mom raised the question: “What is the right age for a child to stay at home alone?” This mom had two children ages 7 and 9, and wanted to leave them home alone to exercise in the morning for one hour while they were still sleeping. Of course, this question raised all kinds of comments and a wide range of opinions. As the social worker at the table, everyone looked at me for the “correct” answer. The fact is, there isn’t an exact age when a child is ready. The laws in New Jersey do not specify an age when a child is considered old enough to stay home alone. The National SAFEKIDS Campaign recommends that no child under the age of 12 be left at home alone; however, parents must make an individual decision based on many factors, including the child’s age and maturity level. All children are not the same. Some 12-year-olds may be ready to stay home alone, but not all will be.
To determine if they may be ready, consider the following: how is your child at handling emergencies, following instructions, and behaving appropriately? Do you still feel the need to check on him/her or to re-direct his/her behavior? If so, then s/he may not be ready to be left on their own. Also, how does your child feel about being left alone? If they seem worried or frightened then they just aren’t ready yet. Keep in mind that even if you feel they may be able to handle staying home alone, it doesn’t mean they can take care of a younger sibling. That requires additional responsibilities that your child may not be ready for yet.
Before you take the big step of leaving your child alone, make sure you review with your child what to do in case of an emergency. Practice with your child a variety of “What would you do if…?” scenarios to make sure they understand how to handle different situations. Discuss your expectations regarding what is allowed while you are away – can they watch TV, use the computer, answer the phone, have friends over…?
Other things to consider when deciding if your child is ready to be left alone is where you live. Are there neighbors nearby you know and trust to help your child in case of an emergency? Do you live on a busy street with lots of traffic? Is there a lot of crime? You and your child need to feel that the surroundings are safe.
Before you leave your child alone for extended periods of time, take a trial run. See how they handle being left alone for 15-20 minutes while you run to the store or pick up a sibling. Start out during the day. If they are able to handle this, then you can gradually leave them alone for longer periods of time.
When you are ready to leave your child alone make sure you leave emergency numbers (doctor, ambulance, fire department, etc.) in a place where they can see them and easily locate, such as on the refrigerator or by the phone. Always leave a phone number (land and cell) where you can be reached, as well as an emergency contact such as a relative or neighbor in case your cell fails or they can’t reach you. Call home frequently to check on your child.
While I do admit I sometimes dream of the day when I’ll no longer have to pay a babysitter, I know those days will come soon enough! Children grow up quickly so enjoy the time you have with them now.
For additional guidelines and things to consider in making this difficult decision, download a copy of the PCA-NJ “Is My Child Ready to Stay Home Alone?” (PDF) tip sheet.