Archive for the ‘
Safety ’ Category
Wednesday, July 16th, 2014
On Monday, Kristie Reeves-Cavaliero and her husband, Brett Cavaliero, appeared on the TODAY show to talk about the 2011 death of their 1-year-old daughter, Sophia Rayne, whom they’d nicknamed Ray Ray. As Brett explained in great detail in our June story “You’d Never Forget Your Child in the Car, Right?”, Sophia had died after he had inexplicably forgotten to drop her at daycare, and instead accidentally left her in his truck for approximately three hours on a warm day. The Cavalieros have since channeled their grief by creating the nonprofit Ray Ray’s Pledge. Its mission is to reduce the number of hot-car deaths—which average around 40 in the U.S. each year—by asking parents to have a simple agreement with their child-care provider. The parents agree to notify the provider whenever the child won’t be coming that day, and the provider agrees to call the parents if the child doesn’t arrive. This agreement would have saved Ray Ray’s life.
During the TODAY segment, Sophia and Brett talked about the gift they’ve been given in the three years since their daughter’s death: the birth of twin daughters. Sophia used a term I wasn’t aware of: “rainbow babies.” This phrase is well-known in circles of parents who have experienced the death of a child, Sophia explained: “A rainbow baby is described as a light in the center of the storm and darkness—and it doesn’t take away the fact that the storm was there; it doesn’t take away the clouds or the rain, but it does offer a light of hope and a ray of color where previously there was nothing but darkness.” Her words gave me chills as I thought of the rainbow babies who have blessed the lives of friends in recent years.
Ray Ray’s Pledge is currently advocating in the form of a petition to the White House to equip cars with “smart occupant detection systems.” Essentially, this system could, among other things, allow cars to start and activate its climate-control system in order to prevent it from getting too hot if a child was trapped inside. It could also send a text message to the owner of the car, notifying him or her that someone is inside. The goal is hit 100,000 signatures by next Tuesday, July 22–but there are less than 1,500 signatures so far. Will you consider taking a minute (truly, that’s all it takes) to add your name to the petition?
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Tuesday, July 15th, 2014
A mom is in prison, and her daughter is in foster care. And odds are, you (or your mom) might have done exactly what this woman did: She let her 9-year-old child play outside in a park, unsupervised.
The circumstances, however, might be a little different than your situation. Debra Harrell in North Augusta, South Carolina, couldn’t find any child care for her shifts at McDonald’s in a Walmart. So her choices were to let her daughter play in a park alone, leave her at home, or bring her to work, where she was forced to hang out for hours in McDonald’s with little to engage her. Debra picked the park. But when other parents noticed this girl by herself for long stretches, they alerted authorities, and Debra was arrested for unlawful conduct toward a child.
There’s so much that’s anger inducing here. There’s the fact that so many jobs don’t pay a living wage, which means that even though moms like Debra are working full time, they still need public assistance to get by. There’s the fact that affordable (or subsidized) child care isn’t available, even for people like Debra who are trying hard to earn their living, but may need a little support to make ends meet. There’s the fact that what she did doesn’t even seem to be illegal in South Carolina, where the laws say Debra’s daughter could have legally stayed home alone (kids younger than eight are the only ones who are legally required to have supervision). And it’s my opinion that it likely wouldn’t have been as big an issue if, say, it was a white middle class woman who left her child there (Debra is African American).
But really, what’s the appropriate age to leave your child unattended? And why has it shifted so seismically since we were kids? If you tell me about your childhood, odds are you were roaming the streets and hanging out in the park for hours at a time. I was. I remember leaving for the playground in the morning, coming home for a quick lunch, then heading back out until the street lights came on. (And I had a stay-at-home mom who in theory, could have come down to monitor us and make sure we slid down the slide properly until we turned 25. But she had better things to do.) I was definitely left to my own devices for hours at a time, at an age younger than nine—and likely for as long as Debra’s daughter spent in the park.
You have to start somewhere with giving kids independence. And despite the pervasive helicopter parenting in my neighborhood, I’ve worked hard to let go. For the past several months, I’ve let my daughters, now 10 and 7, go to the park unsupervised. (They go together, they’ve been instructed on stranger danger, and they both have brown belts in karate and jiu jitsu and wicked roundhouse kicks.) It’s been very hard for me to let go, but I know that they need some space to learn how to develop independence, leadership, empathy and problem-solving skills. And they won’t necessarily do all that if I’m hovering ready to solve any quandary that comes up. Does that make me a bad mommy—and a potential felon? I honestly don’t think so. And I don’t think it should make Debra a felon, either.
Tell us: When do you think is the right age to leave your kids unsupervised? Do you think Debra should have been arrested?
Are you too protective of your kids (or not enough)? Find out if you’re a hover mother!
Image: Girl playing the park by Zurijeta/Shutterstock.com.
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child care, child unattended, debra harrell, helicopter mom, helicopter parenting, home alone laws, hover mother, minimum wage, stay home alone, unsupervised kids | Categories:
Big Kids, News, Safety, The Parents Perspective
Friday, July 11th, 2014
Yes, just the other day we said not to use it. And if that precaution makes you feel better, by all means go ahead. But for parents like me, and my college roommate who asked my advice the other day because spray sunscreen is the only kind her son will tolerate, there’s no need to feel bad if you continue to use it. I say this after asking Wendy Sue Swanson, M.D., pediatrician, mom, and melanoma survivor, who wrote our most recent story on sun safety. She’s passionate about the topic, so hers is an opinion we especially trust.
There’s no definitive proof yet that it’s harmful (the Consumer Reports story from earlier this week is based on a 2011 announcement by the FDA that it’s studying the effects of spray sunscreen on children; no conclusion has been reached). So ultimately, says Dr. Swanson, it’s a matter of risk/benefit: “I still believe the best sunscreen is the one you like, as data shows you’ll use it more. And really, the best sunscreen is the one put on early and reapplied often. But we need to take new evidence and information seriously. So if you plan to continue to use spray sunscreens, mitigate risks.” Here are Dr. Swanson’s three tips on how to do that:
1. Spray it only outside
2. Only use it away from the face
3. Have kids close their eyes and mouth and hold their breath while spraying it
Photo: Small boy crawling towards water at the beach via Shutterstock.
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Tuesday, June 17th, 2014
The Internet has transformed how children learn and communicate, for better and for worse. On one hand, it has brought a wealth of information and research to kids’ fingertips at the click of a button. However, the Internet can be extremely dangerous. The web is the preferred playground for sexual predators, according to Harold Ort, public affairs officer for ICE. Any child with access to a computer or a smartphone is at risk. Last year, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) logged nearly a million hours working over 4,000 online sexual predator investigations.
A crucial component of reducing the number of sexual exploitation cases is education. “The online sexual exploitation of children has reached epidemic proportions. Increasingly these incidents involve young people who are self-producing explicit images and sending them over the Internet. We can’t arrest our way out of this problem. Raising awareness about the risks that lurk in cyberspace is key to helping keep kids safe,” ICE Deputy Director Daniel Ragsdale said. To promote more widespread Internet safety education, the HSI and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) launched Project iGuardian, the first national cyber safety campaign of its kind, in March. The project’s mission is to teach kids — and to help parents and educators teach kids — to “think before you click” in this digital age. Here are four ways you can use iGuardian’s resources to help keep your kids safe online:
- Request to have iGuardian talk to your kid’s school or your organization. HSI special agents and law enforcement officers give hands-on, age-appropriate tips on how to avoid online sexual predators to both students and parents. Younger kids receive trading cards that separate the good guys from the bad guys, making the experience interactive and more memorable. To ask for a presentation, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Check out the NetSmartz Education Outreach Program provided by NCMEC. NetSmartzKids.org has games, videos, and more to introduce kids to Internet safety. NetSmartz.org educates parents on how to prevent and report instances of child exploitation. The website breaks down cyber safety by topics ranging from blogging to gaming to sexting.
- Download the Operation Predator app on iTunes. The Operation Predator app was designed to seek the public’s help in tracking down suspect child predators. Users can receive alerts about wanted predators and can share the information with friends through email or social media. Parents with this app can also look at the latest news about arrests and prosecutions of child predators.
- Know who to call. If you suspect a crime, call (866) 347-2423 or go to the HSI Tip Line. Report suspected child exploitation or missing children to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at (800) 843-5678.
Even the brightest kids can fall victim to sexual predators, according to Ort. It is so important to educate them before something happens. Project iGuardian has set out to do just that.
Have your family sign our internet contract and shop tech-free educational toys.
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Monday, June 16th, 2014
As you get ready to send your child to camp this summer, keep in mind the advice in this guest post from Mary L. Pulido, Ph.D., executive director, The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
Summer camp—whether day camp or sleepaway—brings a boost of independence for children, but also brings to mind thoughts of safety procedures, medical protocol, and emergency aid measures that should be securely in place at each site.
To ensure your child is in the best possible care this summer, make sure you can answer the following questions:
· Does the camp have American Camp Association accreditation? This voluntary procedure evaluates the camp’s safety, health, program, and camp operations on up to 300 standards, exceeding basic requirements. Search the ACA’s database for your child’s day or overnight program at find.acacamps.org.
· How are staff members screened? Know the background and experience of the counselors caring for your child. The camp operator should verify information on resumes and check on licenses, certifications, and references. Some states require a criminal background check and a search of the sex-offender registry too.
· What is the ratio of staff to children? ACA standards require different ratios for varying ages and special needs. At day camps the ratios range from: one staff member for every six campers ages 4 and 5; one staff member for every eight campers ages 6 to 8; one staff member for every 10 campers ages 9 to 14; and one staff member for every 12 campers ages 15 to 17. The camp should also be able to tell you campers are supervised—particularly on field trips, and during activities that may be risky, such as swimming.
· How does the camp screen visitors? Make sure there is a protocol to ensure that unauthorized visitors are not allowed access to your child. It’s also important for the camps to account for attendance and dismissal. If your camp doesn’t already have a policy—and most will—you should have a plan designating how your child is to leave the camp, including the names of those that have permission to visit or escort your child home.
· How does the camp handle emergencies? Ask about past emergencies and the plan that the camp follows should one occur. This includes situations like fire or water/pool accidents, lost children, injuries, and allergic reactions. Find out about CPR and First Aid certifications, what type of medical staff is available, and the hospital with which the camp is affiliated. Provide a description of any medications your child needs, allergies your child has, and emergency contact information. (Again, ACA camps will already require this information.)
· How will your child be oriented to the camp? If she hasn’t already, your child should receive a camp tour, including both the fun spaces and those that are designated as potentially dangerous or off-limits, along with the reasons why campers should not enter them. Children should be instructed and encouraged to report incidents of bullying to staff members. The Buddy System should be explained, as should the plan that is followed if a camper is lost.
· What happens if your child misbehaves? The counselors should have a clear understanding of appropriate disciplinary procedures. Find out how the camp disciplines children, and in what type of circumstance you would be contacted if your child’s behavior is problematic.
· What should you look for if your child is developmentally challenged? There are additional requirements for camps serving children with disabilities such as cerebral palsy, autism, mental disability, and epilepsy. There must be a qualified camp director with experience in working with the developmentally disabled on site. The ratio of staff to children may be as small as one counselor for every two children; it depends on the level of the disability.
Don’t be afraid to ask these questions before you entrust your child to a summer camp, or even after you’ve dropped him off. For more information on keeping your child safe, visit NYSPCC.org.
Photo: children and recreation, via Shutterstock.
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