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‘I’ve lived every parent’s worst nightmare’: The need for booster seat services in Manitoba – Winnipeg | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey

When it comes to car seats, proper installation could mean the difference between life and death for your child.

However, installing them can be difficult, and many Child Passenger Safety Technicians (CPSTs), as well as advocates, say it’s because of limited supports.

Just last week, Saskatchewan RCMP released a report stating that a “disheartening” number of children weren’t properly buckled in. So far this year in Manitoba, Mounties say the number is up to 74.

“It’s not because people are deliberately misusing [car seats],” said Jen Shapka, curriculum coordinator for the Child Passenger Safety Association of Canada (CPSAC). “It’s that they don’t know what they don’t know.”

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Rae Metcalfe, a parent as of 2017, said they didn’t know how to install the first car seat they bought, but at the time could access an inspection program led by the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service.

“We actually went down to the fire department near us and had them look it over and make sure we had installed it correctly. We didn’t. So, the fireman fixed it all up and told us how to install it properly, because the instructions were very confusing to follow,” Metcalfe said.

Click to play video: 'Why an extra 2 minutes could save your child’s life'

Why an extra 2 minutes could save your child’s life

That program shut down the same year and has yet to return.

One resource available to parents and caregivers are CPSTs, but Erin Harder, one of two CPST instructor-trainers (CPST-ITs) in Manitoba, said there are only 11 across the province.

That’s a number which Shapka says is unsustainable.

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“Families need support,” she said.

Eran Jones, a New Brunswick mom whose personal tragedy motivates her national advocacy, said more support and education could have saved her children’s lives.

“Ten years ago, I was in a motor vehicle collision and two of my children and my sister-in-law passed away. Myself and my oldest son survived,” Jones said. “What I didn’t know then is that child passenger safety laws were already outdated at that point, and I was following the law.

“As a parent, you think that the laws in place are there to protect you, and in hindsight, they didn’t on that day.”

Jones said her 17-month-old son Trent was in a forward-facing seat when he should have been rear-facing, but at the time the laws didn’t reflect that.

She wants to see current laws on child passenger safety updated, and Shapka agrees.

“We’re actually partnered with Parachute, which is a national injury prevention organization, on an advocacy campaign right now lobbying all provincial governments and territorial governments to improve their child passenger safety laws because they’re largely insufficient,” said Shapka.

Legislation, confusing manuals and lack of inspection programs, aren’t the only barriers keeping children from safety.

Click to play video: 'National Child Passenger Safety Week'

National Child Passenger Safety Week

“Sometimes [it’s] a matter of culturally appropriate resources and support in the language that the caregiver speaks… Newcomer populations are absolutely at risk,” Shapka said.

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Jones, Harder, and Metcalfe agree.

“It was hard enough for me to read [the manual] in English and comprehend what the exact rules were,” said Metcalfe.

Harder said, “I’ve had quite a few newcomer families reach out to me.”

Jones said newcomers also make up a lot of her clientele, as well as lower-income families.

In the past year, she said she has helped over 150 families in New Brunswick — all for free.

“I’ve lived every parent’s worst nightmare. So, I don’t want any other parents, no matter their economic status, [to not] get the proper instructions for their seats,” said Jones.

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Harder said her mission is similar.

“No matter where they come from or where they are, if they need help keeping their little travelers safe, at the end of the day that’s what it’s all about,” she said.

If you, or someone you know, isn’t needs to install a booster or car seat but isn’t sure how to, Harder says you can find techs on social media (like Faceboook groups), CPSAC’s “find a tech” page, or by asking around.

MPI said they have online resources available as well.

Until you can talk to a CPST, Shapka gives her top five tips for child passenger safety:

  1. Don’t rush through the stages.
  2. Make sure your car seat is tightly installed to the car.
  3. For a rear-facing seat, make sure you have the recline correct so that a baby’s head and neck is supported.
  4.  For a forward-facing seat, use the top tether, which protects against head injuries in a crash.
  5. Make sure the harness is not just tightly installed in the car, but tight on your child.

Click to play video: 'Traffic Tips: Car Seat Safety'

Traffic Tips: Car Seat Safety

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