Shaken Baby Syndrome Parents

I have a shaken baby on my caseload who is doing quite well in her foster home, although she has severe delays and will endure long-standing effects from the violent shaking she suffered at the hands of her parent(s) at 6 weeks old.  She was in the hospital for quite a while and has been in a foster home since.  There has been a criminal investigation, although it has stalled because they cannot pinpoint which parent did it and neither are admitting anything happened.

So now it is months later and I have two parents who want to parent this kid, yet I have all of this risk that I have to take into consideration.  And I am supposed to offer them services.  Yet, there are no services for parents of shaken babies.  I looked at the research that has been done and really there is just the labeling of what SBS is and guides on how to prevent it.  I am supposed to offer services to these parents to eliminate their parental deficiencies, but they do not exist.  But I also don’t feel comfortable sending home a young child with sever disabilities that are the result of the severe physical abuse by at least one of the parents.

I am frustrated.  I am in a position where I could see that these parents could possibly be good parents to this child.  However, at this point, my job is to look at the risk factors and they tell me that I cannot let the child go home.  But do I have enough to prove in a court?  My colleague has reminded me to let the court decide and have that decision be on them.  I am just frustrated because there are no services and I feel like may get the blame for that.  And it is easy to see how good things are going now – reports from the visitation are good and the parents are presenting as committed.  I just have to remind myself of what a violent act they committed and the long-term effects this young child is going to have – developmental delays, learning disabilities, and vision problems.  What an awful case.

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8 Responses to Shaken Baby Syndrome Parents

  1. Reas says:

    Maybe the macro approach? The baby was shaken as a result of anger, so perhaps anger management and monitoring is the way to go. I would feel uncomfortable sending that kid home, too. The one “dead baby” case that stands out in my mind when I did child welfare was a shaken baby case.

  2. Torina says:

    Do you staff your cases to a team? This sounds like a good case to get advice from others on. Shaken Baby also happens as a result of frustrations resulting from endless crying. It may have been a momentary, yet horribly tragic, mistake (I don’t know the details of the case, of course, so I could just be talking out of my ass). Can you provide them with books about how to respond to a baby’s cry? What to do when your baby is sick? Colic? Do your local hospitals have any infant care classes? It sounds like the parents will also need training on raising a child with challenging disabilities (which is stressful for even the most patient of people).

    I am not a social worker (though I have taken many MSW classes) but I work on the other end caring for the kids that have been so severely affected by abuse. Good luck with the case! It sounds like a tough one.

  3. kale2create says:

    Well, it doesn’t sound like the easiest job in the world. I like Reas idea… parenting classes? Child development classes to understand the effects of abuse? In the end, you can’t control their actions, but education is an amazing tool. Good luck and don’t burn out too soon… there’s lots of kids out there who need your help.

  4. fostermom00 says:

    I dealt with more than my share of Shaken Babies as a social worker and even more as a foster parent. I’ve never had one go home when the offender could not be identified. Too much risk, not enough confidence that it wouldn’t happen again.

    Also, if the offending parent was frustrated enough by a 6 week old typically developing child then I’d fear their reaction to a 2 year old severely disabled child. The long term effects that come from a child being violently shaken are disasterous at times. My last shaken baby was 2 months old at the time of the abuse, he lived with us until he was almost 2. He was blind, g-tube dependant, deaf, and functioned around the level of a 6 month old child. It takes a completely unselfish person to commit to caring for a child with those needs full time.

  5. ina says:

    The parents are not only uncontrollably angry, they’re covering for the other’s criminal act. No way, no how should they be allowed to parent.

  6. Jessica says:

    Wow, this is terribly sad. I can’t believe the situations you deal with.

  7. Stacey says:

    As the adoptive parent of a shaken baby, I see the dilemma that you are in. My son will never function normally and neither of his parents will admit that any harm was inflicted. A parents job is to protect their child, these parents are protecting each other.

  8. […] usually for dependency or termination of parental rights.  In this case, the parents of my shaken baby are not agreeing to dependency on their newest child that we removed at […]

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