Zack Ottenstein November 11, 2010
TOLEDO, OH (WTVG) --
Defenseless babies in our community are suffering abuse more often.
Doctors have confirmed an increasing number of shaken baby syndrome cases and they don't know why it's happening.
Shaking can kill a baby. Others suffer lifelong debilitating conditions.
Dominik's father shook him at three months old. His mother Stefany says the resulting brain damage caused epilepsy and learning disabilities. "He may never be able to drive a car because he has epilepsy. He may never be able to hold a respectable job because of his disability. That person that shook him was the one that ruined his life."
Shon Forant lives with that guilt everyday. One morning he lost control and shook his daughter Chelsea while she was crying.
Chelsea now suffers from cerebral palsy. Forant told us, "It's not that I never loved my child. It's not that I didn't want my child in my life."
Shaking and injuring a child isn't an accident according to Dr. Randy Schlievert. He demonstrated to us how violent shaking can be. Brain damage can happen in seconds. Dr. Schlievert says, "That may be all it takes for the child to be permanently damaged or killed."
Dr. Schlievert says there was a cluster of shaken baby cases over the summer. In a period a six weeks, he says northwest Ohio had 6 months' worth of cases.
He told us, "My gut's telling me that the summer heat played a large role, because this really did peak in the summer" because babies can be agitated when it's hot outside.
He also believes the economy caused parents more stress and anxiety. Lucas County Children Services expects to receive about 400 more reports of abused and neglected children than last year.
We met Stefany and Dominik at a fundraiser for the shaken baby syndrome support network. It's one of many groups providing support and education about child abuse.
It's something Shon Forant has made his mission in the wake of abusing his daughter.
Stefany Dewitt says for Dominik, it was a couple of seconds that changed his life forever and that she cannot forgive.
We contacted Dominik's father who is in prison and we did not receive a reply.
While we have found an increase in abuse cases, some experts believe as many as 50 percent of child abuse cases in our area go unreported.
Here are some steps experts say can reduce child abuse.
- Have a crying plan so you know what to do when your baby won't stop crying.
- If you need help with a parenting issue, you can call this number anytime day or night: 1-877-251-5437.
- Have a family member or trusted friend on call, so you can get away if you're getting frustrated