[Tallahassee] –The Statewide Guardian ad Litem Program on Friday released a training video about abusive head trauma in young children, created in partnership with the Florida Department of Health and Dr. Bruce McIntosh, medical director of the state’s Child Protection Team.
The video’s release follows the death of two-year-old Jordan Belliveau from a blow to the head last year, allegedly at the hands of his mother. State Rep. Chris Latvala of Clearwater, in whose district Jordan’s death occurred, filed legislation for the 2019 session that, in part, required this training. While the proposal did not pass, Latvala said, the Guardian ad Litem Program moved ahead with the training, which did not require legislation.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that this law will save lives, and there are other things we can do down the road and other fixes that need to be made to the child welfare system, but this is a very, very important first step,” Latvala told Bay News 9.
According to the National Center for Shaken Baby Syndrome, an estimated 1,200 to 1,400 children are injured or killed in the U.S. by abusive head injuries each year. In Florida, 91 infants and children died of abusive head trauma between 2014 and 2018.
The new training video is aimed at recognizing and responding to signs that a child has been injured in ways that are often denied or concealed by perpetrators. Designed specifically for Guardian ad Litem staff and volunteers, it gives an overview of the incidence of abusive head trauma, the injuries that can occur and how medical professionals confirm a diagnosis. Participants also will review a Guardian ad Litem’s role in protecting victims from further injury.
Guardian ad Litem Executive Director Alan Abramowitz said the video “gives people who don’t have a medical background some great information on how to recognize the signs of this kind of trauma, which is critical since often the children who suffer these injuries are too young to talk.”
The Guardian ad Litem Program, which represents abused, abandoned and neglected children in dependency court proceedings, invites all interested parties to learn more about the Program or to become a volunteer by visiting GuardianAdLitem.org or calling 1-866-341-1425.