Bell Atlantic Sponsors Launch of "Watchful Shepherd" Child-Abuse Prevention Program

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Bell Atlantic Sponsors Launch of "Watchful Shepherd"
Child-Abuse Prevention Program

Company's $10,000 Grant to Help Protect Children in Ocean County

March 3, 1997

Media contacts:

NEWARK, N.J.- A program that enables abused children to
summon help
when they feel threatened is coming to New Jersey, thanks to a
start-up grant from Bell Atlantic-New Jersey.

The company is giving $10,000 to Watchful Shepherd, an organization
that places emergency communications devices in the homes of abused
children. The grant will be used to buy 15 Watchful Shepherd base
units and "panic buttons," which the children wear as
pendants. The
funds also buy support software.

"Watchful Shepherd is a creative, compassionate program, and Bell
Atlantic is thrilled to be involved," said Len J. Lauer,
president of
Bell Atlantic-New Jersey. "It's proof that when you bring
telecommunications technology to the doorsteps of committed people,
you empower them to improve - and in this case, save - human lives."

Starting March 11, the devices will be used in Ocean County, N.J. They
will be connected to the emergency-response center at Community
Medical Center, an affiliate of the St. Barnabas Health Care System,
in Dover Township. The New Jersey Division of Youth and Family
Services (DYFS) also will participate in the program.

Here's how Watchful Shepherd works:

  • A Watchful Shepherd base unit and pendant transmitter are placed in
    the home of a child selected by DYFS caseworkers. The control box
    is connected to the Bell Atlantic telephone network through a
    telephone wall jack. The pendant is a "panic button" that the
    wears around his or her neck.

  • When a child feels threatened by abuse, he or she pushes the button
    on the pendant. A radio signal travels from the pendant to the base
    unit, which automatically dials the emergency response center at
    Community Medical Center. (The emergency response center also will
    receive an alarm if the base unit is disconnected or disabled.)

  • Within 10 seconds, an EMS dispatcher establishes voice contact with
    the child on a speaker phone built into the Watchful Shepherd base

  • Hospital staffers alert police through the 911 emergency network.

  • Police respond. If they find a false alarm at the child's home, they
    reset the Watchful Shepherd base unit and leave. If they decide the
    child faces imminent danger, they remove him or her from the home
    and alert DYFS.

  • A DYFS caseworker then determines whether the child should go home
    or into emergency placement.

Watchful Shepherd was founded in 1993 in the Pittsburgh area by
businessman and children's advocate Joseph Femiani. It was brought to
New Jersey by Thomas McMahon, an assistant superintendent of schools
in Plumsted Township. McMahon became involved with Watchful Shepherd
after reading in Time Magazine about Femiani's success with the
program in Pittsburgh.

Since the program's inception, emergency response staffers at
Pittsburgh's Allegheny General Hospital have received 51 substantiated
calls for help and eight false alarms. Police have taken Watchful
Shepherd children into protective custody 11 times.

Contributions to help expand the Watchful Shepherd program may be sent
to: Watchful Shepherd, P.O. Box 5340, Toms River, NJ 08754.

Bell Atlantic Corp. (NYSE: BEL) is
at the forefront of the new
communications, entertainment and information industry. In the
mid-Atlantic region, the company is the premier provider of local
telecommunications and advanced services. Globally, it is one of the
largest investors in the high-growth wireless communication
marketplace. Bell Atlantic also owns a substantial interest in
Telecom Corporation of New Zealand and is actively developing
high-growth national and international business opportunities in all
phases of the industry.


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