Shaken-baby perpetrator often the mother's boyfriend

Wednesday , August 27, 2014 - 3:51 PM

Standard-Examiner staff

OGDEN — Take 10 minutes. Just 10.

That’s what Jenny Johnson from the Utah Department of Health says.

After all, it could save a life.

Johnson, a violence and injury prevention coordinator, stresses that while statistics show an average of four Utah child deaths each year are a result of abusive head trauma, otherwise known as shaken-baby syndrome, there is preventive help.

Just stepping into another room, away from a crying child, for a few minutes could prevent an abuse injury.

Yet another said case occurred in Ogden this week.

Ogden police arrested Adam Joseph Barney, 23, in connection with the death of a toddler Monday evening. They said Barney was arrested after emergency crews responded to reports of an unresponsive child at the Western Colony Inn at 234 24th St., No. 2.

Responders say they found the 14-month-old girl dead.

Barney, a live-in boyfriend, was questioned by police and admitted that he hit the child and squeezed her, causing severe injury, officers said.

The child’s mother was working at the time of the incident.

Statistics have found that child abuse homicide patterns reflect that the perpetrator is always a caregiver.

“It’s important for people to understand it’s not always biological parent(s), but the ones taking care of the child at the time — the boy/girlfriend of the parent, the day-care provider,” Johnson told the Standard-Examiner.

She adds that abusive head trauma is the “most common injury that we see among children.”

To be exact, 55 percent of children injured under the age of 4 are affected by abuse.

“The biological father of the child or the mother’s boyfriend are most often the perpetrators,” Johnson noted. “As scary as that is, by no means does that indicate that males and fathers are not loving caregivers; in fact, they play a vital part in child development.”

But what causes the aggressive behavior?

It may be substance abuse, stress, broken homes, among other risk factors, says Johnson. “So it’s very important mothers make sure they understand the potential risks.”

She offers these statistics on shaken-baby perpetrators:

● 30 percent, mother’s boyfriend.

● 30 percent (or less), biological father.

● 16 percent, biological mother.

● 11 percent, baby sitter.

● Usually young males between 20 and 33 years old with little experience caring for a child.

● Deaths among children, under age 2, are significantly higher in Utah; most deaths abuse-related.

“As a parent, you know it can get pretty frustrating if an infant constantly cries,” Johnson says. “That’s why parent resources are really important, for those who have these stress factors, to access help if you don't have it.”

“Fortunately this doesn't happen as often we think, but that number (statistic) can fluctuate,” she said in a phone interview Wednesday.

The Utah Department of Health violence and injury program studies a large variety of child abuse and maltreatment cases. The department reviews abuse-related deaths among children, a lot of those circumstances surrounding deaths, Johnson said.

According to The Nemours Foundation, abusive head trauma (shaken-baby syndrome) has many other names, including inflicted traumatic brain injury and shaken impact syndrome. However, all mean one thing: an injury to a child's brain as a result of child abuse.

“Sometimes an injury can cause head trauma to an infant without shaking him or her,” thus it is more accurate to title it ’abusive head trauma’,“ Johnson said. “We’ve never had this happen in Utah, but in other parts of the county there are such cases where children experience the same physiological symptoms from being dropped or thrown.” In which case, child abuse resulting in traumatic brain injury may result in lifelong injuries or disabilities.

Elizabeth Sollis, communications director for the Utah Department of Human Services, whose mission is to provide education, service and support to those in need, tells the Standard-Examiner there are crisis nurseries available across the state; Family Support Center runs the crisis nursery in Ogden.

“Child abuse and neglect can be prevented, and resources to support families and help them live safe, healthy and successful lives are detailed on our website,” she said.

If someone suspects child abuse or neglect, they should report it immediately by calling 855-323-3237. In an emergency, they should call 911.

“Don’t keep it a secret; we don’t want to see theses things happen anymore, either,” Johnson said, “and it is against the law — we have an obligation to prevent child abuse.”

In addition to calling the child abuse hotline to report abuse or neglect, the public can be directed to resources in their community. Sollis adds, “Another great resource is 211. By calling (this number), Utahns will be able to learn about a myriad of resources — public and private — in their community.”

These free resources are available for anyone, but especially those new and young parents to make sure they have what it takes to prevent child abuse.

It answers questions like: What do I do when my baby’s crying? Resources, she said, recommend taking 10 minutes away from the infant to breathe.

“It sounds simple, but people don’t realize the impact,” Johnson added. “Many families have children that have had abusive head trauma and now suffer lifelong problems; it’s not just death.”

Contact reporter Morgan Briesmaster at 801-625-4268 or Follow her on Twitter at @SE_mbriesmaster. Like her Facebook page at

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