The nightmare of Shaken Baby Syndrome has lasting effects on parents. Besides extended hospitalization, a baby who has been shaken and is able to come home typically has long term effects that last the rest of the child's life. According to the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome the outcome of being shaken varies with little rhyme or reason. According to Wicks, children who were shaken as babies often endure challenges such as learning disabilities, behavior disorders, impulse control issues, blindness, paralysis, and cerebral palsy. Approximately 25 percent of the 1200-1400 cases of Shaken Baby Syndrome per year in America end in death. However, Wicks also knows of a ten-year-old who was shaken as a baby and has made a full recovery. Another young woman who was shaken as an infant was blinded by the incident; however, she is on her way to graduating with honors from Stanford University.
The National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome provides on-line forums for families and helps put people into contact with local support groups. Oftentimes parents must deal with the fact that the abuse was caused by a friend or a member of their own family. Wicks points out, "because you are not likely to leave your child with someone that you don't trust, trust issues come about." There are often pointed fingers and legal action. Shaking a baby is child abuse and the trail that follows the incident is complicated, messy, and costly. Parents are also faced with intense grief or the challenge of caring for a child with a severe disability. There is also an uncertainty about the future that proves stressful for parents. Wicks says, "There is such a wide range of outcomes that it is really hard for parents of children who have been shaken to try to figure out what the future is going to bring. Even their child's own neurologist can't tell them. It depends on the child's will to fight and what type of services they're able to get them into."
Darryl Gibbs does not want anyone to feel as alone and overwhelmed as he did seven years ago. In 2001, he decided to bring attention to this form of abuse and started The Cynthia Gibbs Foundation. Besides raising awareness about Shaken Baby Syndrome, he works to provide support to families who have been touched by tragedy. The foundation provides counseling, financial support, victim advocacy, and accompaniment to court. Though his efforts mainly touch the New York Metropolitan Area, he hopes to expand his outreach and is willing to travel anywhere in the country to speak about the issue or provide support to families.
High profile cases such as the story of Kaleb Schwade, an infant boy who was recently shaken in Florida, catch the attention of the nation. There has been a recent increase in the amount of money given to organizations like the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome and in the amount of inquiries from people wanting to raise awareness in their own communities.
Typically, young mothers are the keepers of the information on Shaken Baby Syndrome. They are given pamphlets and lectures by doctors after giving birth and at routine appointments. However, because it is not typically a mother who shakes her baby, it is necessary for her to spread the word. Mothers can educate the men in their lives, whether it be fathers, step-fathers, boyfriends or brothers. Once privy to the information, mothers can pass it along to caregivers as well. Additionally, public health organizations are always open to volunteers who want to train others. You need not be a professional to be trained as a Shaken Baby Educator. In many states if you attend one training seminar, you gain access to basic information, pamphlets, power point presentations, and DVDs that you can take to local schools, churches, or community groups in the hopes of educating others about this type of abuse.
Mary Salisbury of Prevent Child Abuse Illinois calls for a movement. "I like to compare it to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). People know that you don't get into a car if you've been drinking. I want them to know that you don't shake a baby. It's a social norm that people need to know. It's a simple message: don't shake a baby."
I have held a screaming baby up in front of me, screaming on the inside, "Will you just be quiet!" and then I would hold her back to me and think how horrible to even have thought of shaking her...