Injuries to children prompt EMS safety forum

The forum was designed to educate first responders on how to recognize signs of child abuse

Austin American Statesman 

GEORGETOWN, Texas — John Sneed, the director of Williamson County Emergency Services, smiled after leaving a meeting Friday afternoon on how to keep children safe, saying it had already sparked a new plan.

Williamson County EMS and the Williamson County Children’s Advocacy center had just decided to make a continuing education video for firefighters, paramedics and police about how to recognize signs of child abuse, he said.

The meeting, hosted by Williamson County Commissioner Lisa Birkman, was prompted by two injuries to children in the county this year, including one at a day care center. A 5-month-old baby died at a Georgetown day care after choking on a glove in January, and a 1-year-old boy received brain injuries after a Round Rock babysitter shook him severely in February, police have said.

The caregivers have been charged with injury to a child in both cases.

Parents need to make sure their children are in a licensed day care, officials said at the meeting Friday in Georgetown. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services has a list of licensed day cares at

The Georgetown day care owner was licensed but was taking care of too many children under the age of 17 months, said Julie Moody, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

Terri Abernathy, an assistant county attorney who was at the meeting, said she didn’t know how to look for licensed day cares when she first moved to the county. She suggested that information about finding them be placed at churches where newcomers often turn for support when they arrive in a community.

Parents also need to ask questions at a day care when something doesn’t seem to be right, said Tara Turner, who spoke at the meeting. She won a lawsuit against Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin after one of its day care teachers knocked her then 18-month-old son to the floor and caused a fracture in his skull in 2005.

Turner said she didn’t find out her son had been injured until she asked a school official why the teacher had been dismissed after 20 years at the facility.

Williamson County Sheriff’s Capt. Pete Hughey said parents of the two children who were injured or killed in Williamson County this year did ask the caregivers questions before the incidents happened. The problem was the caregivers themselves, he said.

“It’s the people,” he said. “I guess they unravel. I don’t know what’s going on with this world and why people are hurting children and why things seem like they are getting more vicious.”

Day care workers need to have a plan about what they are going to do when they get too stressed out from taking care of children, said Williamson County Justice of the Peace Edna Staudt.

Parents also need to not be afraid to call law enforcement if they feel something is wrong at a day care, said Steve Shanks, a detective with the Williamson County sheriff’s office. Police need to go to a scene with paramedics to make sure there is a good investigation, he said.

One of the “big issues” in Williamson County, he said, is that day care providers have been calling parents about injured children instead of 911.

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