Installing a car seat can be one of the most frustrating and stressful parenting tasks out there.
Is it too loose? Is it too tight? Is this the right size and type for my child? Should they be rear facing or front facing? The recommendations just changed...what?
And yet, making sure your car seat is properly installed is one of the most important things you can do to ensure your child's safety when they're in your vehicle.
Jessica Mitchell knows all these things and has installed hundreds of car seats over the last five years through her work as the Safe Kids Pima County coordinator, a job she holds in addition to being a program manager for Tucson Medical Center's pediatric outreach program.
You might have heard about Safe Kids Pima County by seeing their table at a community event; or maybe you've been part of one of their programs. They're a helpful resource for parents to get information about keeping kids safe not just in the car but also at home, in the water and at play.
"There's so much information out there, that when it comes down to raising our kids, we can't know it all," Mitchell, also a mom of two, says. "That old message of 'it takes a village to raise your kids' is true to know everything that you have to know to keep your kids safe."
Her job with Safe Kids Pima County and TMC is to make sure that parents have a place to get information they need, share safety tips, coordinate workshops and trainings, and make sure resources — like car safety seats and swim classes are available to Pima County families
Mitchell shared more about what Safe Kids Pima County offers with us below...
What is Safe Kids Pima County?
It's a local coalition that's been spearheaded in Pima County by Tucson Medical Center since 2006, Mitchell says. This local group is made up of different community members like those who work in law enforcement, fire departments, emergency medical response, and the health department.
"It's all sorts of various organizations who all have the same mission of wanting to prevent pediatric, unintentional injuries and death," Mitchell says. "What's scary that these unintentional injuries and deaths are actually the leading cause for children 0 to 19 years old."
This local coalition is one of more than 400 across the country that are part of the national Safe Kids Worldwide organization.
What are the priorities for our local coalition?
The biggie is child-passenger safety, Mitchell says. But the group also heavily focuses on bike and pedestrian safety, and water safety. The group looks at data from the annual Child Fatality Review Program, and education priorities identified by Safe Kids Worldwide to determine what their focus areas will be, she says.
What kinds of resources and information does Safe Kids Pima County make available to families?
There's a lot! Through a partnership with insurance company GEICO, Safe Kids offers a monthly 2-hour class for parents called Ride Safe Kids, where they learn about how to correctly install a child safety seat and the effects of a crash on a safety seat. They can also receive a new car seat upon completing the course.
Safe Kids also hosts three to four large car seat giveaways through support from the Arizona Governor's Office of Highway Safety. If you already have a car seat, Safe Kids will check them and make sure it's installed properly at the check events they host annually. They also host workshops to train people to become certified car seat techs.
The "Water Safety is for You" program reaches more than 1,200 first-grade students who are taught the ins and outs of being safe in the water through six learning modules taught by their teacher. At the end of the program kids get to go on a reward trip to an event where they rotate through interactive stations that reinforce what they've learned, Mitchell says.
The program started in nine schools in 2007 and has since grown to 18 schools. "Of the schools we've been in since 2007, we know for a fact that none of the students from those schools and that area have been part of a water incident," Mitchell says.
Mitchell has interns working with her from the University of Arizona who are responsible for going into fifth and sixth grade classrooms to teach them about over-the-counter medication safety. "They're teaching them how to read a medicine bottle and talking to them about taking too much medicine, or what medicines you shouldn't be taking" she says.
She also works with Head Start centers to teach parents about car seat safety and bike safety, and will soon be piloting a program that focuses on medication safety for parents.
Plus, they're usually out and about at different community events hosting a table with educational resources, and sometimes items to give away.
"We're not just handing families stuff, we're talking to them about why it's important and what they can do," Mitchell says.
Where's the best place to find more info about these classes and programs?
TMC also has the Desert Kids Safety Program, which Mitchell works on. That program also offers booster seat safety classes and giveaways, bike helmet fittings and giveaways, free gun locks, and a car seat loaner program where you can borrow different sized car seats in a pinch. Info about those resources can be found here.