Rebecca L. Harris of O’Fallon, Mo., may receive a seven-year prison sentence and fine after a jury convicted her of felony assault charges for the severe injury of Kaleb Wakefield.

Rebecca Harris will face formal sentencing on September 19, 2008 for the conviction related to the severe injuries she inflicted on four-month-old Kaleb Wakefield. Harris was hired by Caprina and Aaron Wakefield to babysit in their home. News stories report that on the afternoon of October 26, 2007, four-month-old Kaleb was found seriously injured while in the care of Rebecca Harris. During the investigation Harris admitted to shaking Kaleb and banging his head against a wall. Young Kaleb is now 13 months old. He struggles with significant disability as a result of the Shaken Baby Syndrome and skull fracture he sustained while Harris was babysitting. Harris’s attorney stated that his client was feeling frustration due to personal and financial struggles she was enduring while providing child care for the Wakefields.

 

Feelings of stress and frustration are normal while caring for infants and children, however acting out in a harmful way towards the infant or child is not acceptable. The caregiver should focus on developing an abuse-prevention plan for dealing with feelings of stress and frustration that may emerge in the presence of the infant or the child. The abuse-prevention plan should include a cooling off period and developing an effective coping behavior that prevents physical abuse from occurring. It is best for families to be proactive and make an effort to provide a supportive environment for caregivers with children by assisting with childcare and allowing the caregiver respite. And the caregiver should not hesitate to ask family members and friends to assist with childrearing. It takes more than one person to care for an infant or raise a child. If you or someone you know has difficulty managing anger than utilizing community programs may be necessary if the family is not supportive. Please don’t hesitate to contact an organization in your community to assist you with childcare and respite issues. Please seek assistance if you feel overwhelmed by stress. If you know someone that has expressed frustration and is feeling overwhelmed, reach out and assist in any way that you can. Communication is essential to preventing child abuse. Remember approximately four million children are abused annually. Less than half of those cases get reported (http://rad.usuhs.mil:80/rad/home/peds/pedindex.html). Seeking assistance before an injury occurs is not a crime.   

 

 What resources are available to prevent or support victims of SBS?

 

The following resources are available to assist you with obtaining the information you need regarding SBS:

 

1)  Childhelp USA               (800)-4-A-CHILD

A hotline provides crisis counseling and literature about child abuse.

 

2)  National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse                           800-Children

                This organization provides information and referrals about child abuse

 

3)  National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome, 2955 Harrison Boulevard, Suite 102,
     Ogden, UT  84403.  (801) 627-3399 or 1-888-273-0071, http://www.dontshake.com

The National Center for Shaken Baby Syndrome is a private, nonprofit organization that provides information to professionals and parents about SBS. 

 

4)  The Shaken Baby Alliance, P.O. Box 150734, Ft. Worth, TX, 76108.

      (877) 6-END-SBS, http://www.shakenbaby.com

The Shaken Baby Alliance site provides information regarding SBS prevention efforts, family support, victim advocacy, justice and legal issues, and has a library of SBS related information.

 

5)   Prevent Child Abuse America, 200 S. Michigan Avenue, 17th Floor, Chicago, IL

      60604-2404. (312) 663-3520, http://www.preventchildabuse.org

The organization offers various programs on child abuse prevention, and it also directs efforts toward increasing public awareness about child abuse and neglect.

 

6)  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, http://www.hhs.gov .

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides general information about health and safety issues, including links to child abuse information and topics.

 

    

Christopher Keane
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California Child Abuse and Child Injury Lawyer
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