Governor Chet Culver has signed legislation which sets up a "shaken baby syndrome" prevention program in the Iowa Department of Public Health. The bill, however, does not provide the money to run the program.
Two years ago, Kathy Welsh’s 20-month-old grandson, Joey, died after being shaken by a babysitter. "This legislation is pretty special to us, hoping that there can be funding found to implement the legislation, " Welsh says. "It’s very important legislation."
Welsh, who’s from Albia, is the public health administrator of Monroe County and she hopes state officials perhaps get a grant from somewhere to educate more Iowans about how even a small shake can seriously injure a baby. "I believe $133,000 would get a $2 DVD into the hands of all parents and that is pennies compared to what just Joey’s case cost," Welsh says, "when you have two public defenders, the medical costs, the burial costs, the counseling costs."
Last week, Welsh saw a simulation which uses a doll to illustrate how shaking a baby can cause damage. "People don’t realize how little of a shake can cause damage," Welsh says.
On March 1, 2007, Welsh’s grandson died from injuries he received the day before at day care. From 1997 to 2005, there were 47 infants in Iowa who died after being shaken too roughly.
Iowa First Lady Mari Culver was on hand for the bill signing ceremony in her husband’s statehouse office. "Shaken baby syndrome — it’s a wholly-preventable tragedy and it’s one we can stop," Mari Culver said. "But to truly stop it from occuring, it will take a team effort — a team effort of service providers, of activists, of legislators, care-givers, educators and elected officials."
Over 40 people crowded into Governor Culver’s formal office in the statehouse for Thursday’s event and Kathy Welsh of Albia was there. Welsh and some of her public health colleagues in Monroe County are selling t-shirts locally to raise money to buy that doll which simulates shaken baby injuries. The woman accused of shaking Welsh’s grandson was sentenced to 50 years in prison this past August.