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Baby abuse tied to women


Author: Poughkeepsie Journal

Elizabeth Lynch

Article Text:

Lynn Matthews. Shelley James. Jennie Malak. Angela McBride. Lanisha Busby. Angela Williams.

They've all either been convicted or accused of violently shaking Dutchess County infants, and causing serious brain damage or killing them.

The fact they are women bucks a national trend.

Men -- either the child's father, or the mother's boyfriend -- are responsible for about two-thirds of all shaken baby cases, according to advocacy groups.

''In Dutchess County, every case I'm aware of has been a female perpetrator,'' said George Lithco, whose son Skipper died in December 2000 after he was violently shaken by his babysitter.

Women child-care provid-ers are responsible for about 17 percent of shaking cases.

''Anyone is capable of shaking a child,'' said Karen Coleman, spokeswoman for the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome. ''Re-ports have shown there is a higher number of men. But that does not mean only a man can become frustrated. Anybody can be frustrated by a crying child.''

Shaking a baby can cause the child's brain to bump against the skull and can result in permanent brain injury or death. There are an estimated 800 to 1,200 cases of shaken baby syndrome each year nationwide.

More cases

In Dutchess, there have been at least six cases since December 2000, when Skipper Lithco died.

Malak and McBride are mothers of children who were injured.

Last week, Malak pleaded guilty to felony assault after she shook her 18-month-old son

. Mc-Bride pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault after she injured her 8-month-old son.

Matthews, James and Williams were child-care providers.

Matthews pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the death of Skipper Lithco, who was just three weeks shy of his first birthday. She is serving a sentence of up to three years in state prison.

James pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide in the February 2001 death of 17-month-old Dale Anderson Jr. She is due to be released from prison in three months.

Williams was charged Sunday with manslaughter in the death of a 23-month-old girl. Her case is pending.

Busby, who is facing charges of misdemeanor assault and endangering the welfare of a child, was baby-sitting. She is accused of shaking a two-month-old boy and seriously injuring him.

The child-care providers were not registered with the Child Care Council of Dutchess County, nor had they attended any of the training programs, Executive Director Jeanne Wagner said.

''They have not had the benefit of the training that you would assume a child-care provider has,'' she said.

Lithco speculated the child-care providers were new to the area and did not have family and friends to call upon for support if they were becoming frustrated.

The child care council offers health and safety training. The training covers the dangers of shaken baby syndrome, along with sudden infant death syndrome, CPR and other topics, Wagner said.

Poughkeepsie resident Dale Anderson operates Bumblebee Day Care. He not only has sat through the training on shaken baby syndrome, he's helped give it.

He knows first hand the dangers of shaken baby syndrome. His 17-month-old son, D.J. Anderson, was shaken and died in February 2001. James was convicted of criminally negligent homicide in his death. She is due to be released from prison in May.

''I can't believe two years already went by,'' Anderson said. ''She's coming home within a few months and she'll be home to her family. It's just not fair.''



Tips to help caregivers deal with a crying infant or toddler:

- Make sure the baby's basic needs are met. Offer the child food, change his or her diaper and check for uncomfortable clothing.

- Offer the baby a pacifier.

- Take the baby for a walk in a stroller or for a ride in a car.

- Walk the baby around.

- Call a friend, relative or neighbor to come over for support, or to care for the baby while you take a break.

- Put the baby in his or her crib or playpen, making sure the child is safe. Close the door and give yourself a few minutes to collect yourself. Check on the baby every five minutes or so.

- Call a crisis hot line.

- If you are a child-care provider and cannot handle a crying baby, let the parents know. Don't be afraid to tell parents you feel unable to care for their baby.


There are resources available to those struggling to cope with children or those who want to become involved in the issue.

- Those who fear they may be losing control with a child should call the Dutchess County Office of Mental Hygiene Helpline at (845) 485-9700 or (877) 485-9700.

- For information on shaken baby syndrome or other child-abuse issues, contact the Child Abuse Prevention Center at (845) 454-0595.

- Information also is available at www.skippervigil.com or by calling (845) 297-4779.


Information about shaken baby syndrome can be found at:

- The National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome. Its Web site is at www.dontshake.com or you can call (888) 273-0071.

- The Shaken Baby Alliance. The Web site address is www.shakenbaby.com or call (877) 636-3727.

2003 Feb 12