Training raises awareness of infant deaths

Published 9:22 am Saturday, July 14, 2018

Area law enforcement officials, social workers, representatives from the district attorney’s office and medical officials this week participated in training that could save the lives of infants.

The two-day training in the investigation of Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Syndrome (SUID) and child abuse, is designed to make sure infant deaths are correctly documented and investigated, and to encourage social workers to teach parents healthy sleep habits.

Lt. Jody Scott demonstrates the use of the doll in investigations. Investigators were trained to use the doll in discussions about how infants die.

The class started on Thursday and ended on Friday.

SUID is used to describe the sudden and unexpected death of a baby less than one year old in which the cause isn’t obviously determined before investigation.

SUID can be from an unknown abnormality or vulnerability and is classified as a natural death.

“We’ve been doing doll reenactment in actual scenarios such as unsafe sleep areas, beds and even play areas,” Connie Shingledecker, a SUID invesitgations trainer, said.

“The Center for Disease Control created this training around 2005.”

Shingledecker has been teaching this class since 2006.

“This is important because infants are dying and in a majority of the cases they die in an unsafe sleeping environment,” she said.

“Which can be in a bed with a mother, a father and even a sibling. The child is placed to sleep and somehow its nose or mouth becomes blocked.”

According the American Academy of Pediatric guidelines, infants must be laid on their back, sleeping separate of parents and free of any loose blankets

From the time of death, Shingledecker says that most of the time the infant is moved from the scene of death before investigators arrive.

“They are moved from the environment in which they passed away and it’s hard to tell what or how they died.”

That’s where the practice dolls come in.

“We’ve made these kits, that were given by the Alabama Department of Public Health, that have a doll inside. Investigators will use the doll to help understand how the infant could’ve died.”

There are also placards within the kit to properly determine how exactly things could have occurred.

Shingledecker also trains on how to have empathy during these incidents.

“It’s a death scene not a criminal scene,” she said.

And it’s very important to have a thorough investigation when trying to determine if an infant has had an accidental suffocation or Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Syndrome.

“Data helps training so it’s important to have extensive training and have thorough investigations so that it will help contribute to data,” Shingledecker said.

“The data helps departments and helps prevent infant deaths,” she said.

Shingledecker said that hopefully this training helps social workers push parents of infants to make sure they sleep in a safe environment.

The class was a collaborative effort between the Alabama Department of Public Health and the Covington County Sheriff’s Office.

“’I’m honored to bring training like this to members of the law enforcement, social workers, EMS and others. It’s well needed training on a very important topic. This is the second training we’ve done in two months,” Sheriff Dennis Meeks said.