Car seat clinic helps to keep kids safe

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Willimantic - posted Mon., Apr. 11, 2011
Marisol Feliciano, program coordinator for Safe Kids Windham Country, adjusts the straps on Edwin's new car seat. Photos by Melanie Savage.
Marisol Feliciano, program coordinator for Safe Kids Windham Country, adjusts the straps on Edwin's new car seat. Photos by Melanie Savage.

Is anything more important than the safety of the next generation? Safe Kids Windham County is dedicated to keeping children safe, and holds regular clinics aimed at instructing parents in the proper use of car seats.  

On April 9, Safe Kids partnered with the Eastern Connecticut State University Police Department for a car seat safety clinic in Willimantic.

Four out of five car seats in Windham are misused, according to Safe Kids Windham Country Program Coordinator Marisol Feliciano. “It’s called ‘gross misuse,’” Feliciano said. “In Windham there’s an over 86 percent rate of gross misuse of car seats.” Either the seats themselves are no good, or they are installed improperly. “That’s before they come to us and we help them,” said Feliciano.

In Windham, where many families struggle financially, there are a lot of seats handed down from one child to another, or one family to another. However, guidelines suggest replacement of a seat once it reaches six years past the date of manufacture. And a seat that has been involved in a collision should never be used again. “You should never, ever use a car seat that you don’t know the history for,” said Feliciano.

Families coming to the clinic with seats that were improper were given new ones. Car seats for the April 9 clinic were provided by the Willimantic Elks Lodge. “We partner with a number of different organizations,” said Feliciano. At a typical Windham clinic, an average of 25 seats are given away. “The families in financial need, we can’t let them leave without a safe seat,” said Feliciano.

As the only Spanish-speaking tech at the event, Feliciano was kept busy translating. She instructed a Spanish-speaking mom about the safety needs of her 20-month-old son as he progresses through the different developmental stages. “We don’t know if she’ll come back,” explained Feliciano. “We want to make sure that when we have them here, they get all of the information about all of the different stages.”

Not all families who attended required donated car seats. With the American Academy of Pediatrics recently releasing new guidelines, some families just wanted to make sure that they had their seats properly installed. “The guidelines follow what we’ve been telling parents all along,” said Feliciano. “Now we’re all on the same page.” The new AAP guidelines, published this month, advise parents to keep their toddlers in rear-facing car seats until age 2, or until they reach the maximum height and weight for their seat. They also advise that most children will need to ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until they have reached 4 feet 9 inches tall, and are between 8 and 12 years of age.

For a list of the five best practice recommendations from the AAP, visit the website Safe Kids Windham County, working under Windham Hospital, has a car seat clinic scheduled for April 23, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Glastonbury Fire Department at 905 Main St. Contact Marisol Feliciano at 860-714-5808 for more information. See the Connecticut Safe Kids website for other upcoming events.

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