Guest Blog: Are you a CPS Zealot? Or an Advocate with Zeal?

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StarfishOne day, an old man was walking along a beach that was littered with thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore by the high tide. As he walked he came upon a young boy who was eagerly throwing the starfish back into the ocean, one by one.

Puzzled, the man looked at the boy and asked what he was doing. Without looking up from his task, the boy simply replied, “I’m saving these starfish, Sir”.

The old man chuckled aloud, “Son, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make?”

The boy picked up a starfish, gently tossed it into the water and turning to the man, said, “I made a difference to that one!”

This short parable nicely sums up how I feel about child passenger safety education.  After having been an Emergency Medical Technician and 911 Dispatcher for many years, and witnessing the sad aftermath of improperly or unrestrained children, I decided to become a Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST).  Over the last 6 years since my certification, in my role as a full time civilian police department employee, as a tech offering private car seat checks, and an active volunteer with local CPS agencies, I’ve educated many, many parents in person, online and over the phone.

My goal has always been to appreciate each success, or “starfish”.  I know that I’ll never save every single one.   I’ve also learned I need to meet parents where they are and that success is subjective.  Making a child safER is a win in my book.  If I wasn’t able to convince a parent to switch their 18 month old back to rear-facing, but I was able to teach her to properly install the seat forward-facing, understand the importance of a top tether, snug up the harness to pass the pinch test, and when and how to move the harness straps up, then her child wins.  It may not be the safest choice, but it’s certainly a much safer one than a forward-facing but improperly installed and fitted seat.  And added to that is the knowledge that the parent knows I respect her choices, and that she will feel free to seek out future advice from me.  Every single one of those is a positive point.

This is how I educate and advocate for CPS on a daily basis. This is how most techs I know conduct themselves. Lately, though, with the advent of Facebook CPS groups, there’s been a shift.  Many CPS ‘advocates’ and newer, less seasoned CPSTs lacking real world experience, are educating in a ‘do or die’ way.  A CPST friend referred to this group as zealots, and this is a very accurate description.

Zealot PhotoThe CPS zealot believes that there are no exceptions.  The absolute maximum best practice must be followed at all times. If they can’t fit all of their children in rear seats, they must buy a new vehicle or stay home.  Parents must spend money they don’t have or can’t spare to buy longer-lasting seats if their child is under 4 and they’ve outgrown the rear-facing limit.  They are prohibited from traveling with lap babies on planes. They see black and white, in a world where there are thousands of other shades of colors.  Zealots believe if they say it, you must do it.

Why is this a problem? Well, life is rarely ever black and white.  These zealots are fear-mongering, turning off parents to hearing what true CPS advocates like me and many of my respected colleagues have to share.  They push parents to get them to act in the way the zealot believes is the ONLY way. This is not advocacy.  It’s bullying.

Zeal PhotoI’d love to see the culture of zealots change.  From those who are fanatical and uncompromising, to advocates that approach instead with zeal. To be a positive role model. To be the person who parents want to come back to again and again with questions, because they feel unjudged and welcome.  To consider that if they are too reproachful with parents and caregivers, they might win a ‘battle’ perhaps, but the ultimate war will be lost.  Opportunities for education, and making children safer, will be closed to all of us with some parents. And that isn’t our goal.

I hope if you’re a zealot, you’ll read this and know that I understand where you’re coming from even if I abhor your approach.  I want to see all kids as safe as possible too.  I’m kept awake by the local news that another child was killed because she was unrestrained.  I become physically ill when I see a picture of a friend’s small child in an ill-fitting seat belt without a booster in my Facebook feed.  I’m frustrated when a parent HAS an appropriate seat that isn’t maxed out, but chooses not to continue to rear-face for reasons they can’t explain.  Some nights I do lie in my bed and cry because it seems like we are not getting anywhere. Beautiful babies are still dying.  I get it, truly I do.  But I know becoming a zealot won’t change those things.

Instead, I do my best to gain the trust and respect of all parents I come in contact with.  I accept that my job is to educate, and it’s a parents’ job to decide.  I give them the best option, and when that isn’t their choice, I give them every other possible option that leaves the child safER than they were when we started.  Little steps, sometimes.

One starfish at a time.  I know I won’t make a difference to all of them, but I know I surely helped ‘that one’.

 

Coleen Fitch is a stepmom and mom who developed her passion for keeping kids safe in the car during her many years in public safety.  She is a former EMT and 911 Dispatcher who,  for the past 9 years, has worked as a full-time civilian employee for local police in the Traffic Division.  She became certified as a Child Passenger Safety Technician in 2009 and is the owner of Little Riders LLC, a child passenger safety education and installation service.  Coleen is a long-time contributor to the car-seat.org forums, and an active CPS advocate and volunteer in her community.  She lives in southern CT with her family and their dog Scooby. 

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New Jersey Updated Child Restraint Law Goes into Effect September 1, 2015

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NJ county mapOn September 1, 2015, New Jersey put into effect its new child restraint laws. These laws apply to everyone driving through the state, not just to motorists who live in NJ. Even if your vehicle is registered in Toronto, you are expected to comply with the vehicle & traffic laws of each state you are driving in. And that includes their child restraint laws.

We know that legal jargon can be very confusing and many parents who live in New Jersey (or who drive through the state) still have questions so here is a breakdown of the the new NJ carseat and booster seat law in plain English:

Children under the age of 8 (through age 7) are legally required to ride in the back seat* as follows:

  • Under age 2 (0-23 months) and weighing less than 30 pounds are required to use a rear-facing carseat with a 5-point harness. This means a convertible used in the rear-facing position or an infant seat. (Note: Most babies will outgrow an infant carrier before their 2nd birthday and will need to transition to a convertible seat used in the rear-facing position. Unless you start off with a convertible seat from birth and then there is no need to transition to a bigger rear-facing seat.)

Rear-facing only (infant) carseat convertible seat installed reat-facing

  •  Age 2 through age 3 (24-47 months) secured in a carseat with 5-point harness either rear-facing (until reaching the weight or height limit) or forward-facing. Having a 3-year-old in just a booster seat is not legal unless they weigh more than 40 lbs.

Diono-Rainier-Clara  Nautilus2

  • Age 4 through age 7 (48 months until 8th birthday) and less than 57 inches tall (4’9″) secured in a forward-facing carseat with 5-point harness or a booster seat. There is no weight requirement in this updated law – only age and height requirements. (Note: If you have an older child who weighs more than 80 lbs. and you’re having a hard time finding a booster seat that they actually still fit in – consider a Safety 1st Incognito Kid Positioner. It’s specifically designed for bigger, older kids.)

Evenflo SK Platinum - harness Jon Turtle Booster Evenflo Amp

  • Age 8 through 17 shall wear a properly adjusted and fastened seat belt

Passing the 5 Step Test

*Exemptions: If there are no rear seats (e.g., standard cab pickup truck), the child shall be secured in a carseat or booster in the front passenger seat except that no child shall be secured in a rear-facing carseat in the front seat of any motor vehicle which is equipped with a passenger-side airbag that is not disabled or turned off.

Full text of the new law can be found here:  http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2014/Bills/PL15/50_.PDF

NJ Updated Law

Evenflo Transitions Combination Seat Giveaway – USA & CANADA!

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Even though it’s our 7th “Blogiversary”, this celebration isn’t about us – it’s about you. We know we’re lucky to have so many awesome readers and followers who all care deeply about keeping kids safe in motor vehicles. We want to reward you for supporting us throughout these past 7 years and the best reward we could think of was another fabulous giveaway promotion for our readers on both sides of the border!

Evenflo Transitions - MercuryFor this week’s giveaway promotion we’ve partnered with our generous friends at Evenflo to offer two new Evenflo Transitions combination seats in the “Mercury” fashion – one for USA and one just for Canada!

Evenflo Transitions Specs:

  • 5-point harness: Forward-facing only for kids 22-65 lbs., at least 1 year old, height 28- 50″ tall (Please note – it is recommended that all kids under 24 months ride in a rear-facing carseat. For this reason we recommend the Evenflo Transitions for kids who are at least 2 years old.)
  • Booster mode with vehicle lap/shoulder belt: 40-120 lbs., at least 4 years old, height 44 – 57″

Evenflo Transitions Features:

  • 4 harness height positions
  • 2 crotch strap/buckle positions
  • Push-on lower LATCH anchor “Quick Connectors”  (LATCH limit is 45 lbs.)
  • Deep head wings for enhanced side-impact protection
  • Energy-absorbing EPS foam
  • Steel reinforced frame
  • Height-adjustable head support
  • Recline feature on base (reclined position required for kids under 40 lbs.)
  • Harness strap covers (required for kids under 40 lbs.)
  • Buckle Pockets
  • Dual integrated cup holders
  • FAA approved for use in aircraft (with 5-pt harness)
  • 8 year lifespan before expiration

We have a full review of the Evenflo Transitions here:  http://carseatblog.com/33748/evenflo-transitions-3-in-1-combination-seat-review-safe-sleek-stylish/

Evenflo Transitions Giveaway – USA

To enter you MUST leave a comment on this blog and then click on Rafflecopter to qualify yourself. For extra entries, follow the Rafflecopter instructions and visit our Facebook page, visit the Evenflo Facebook page and tweet about our giveaway! You also get additional entries for each time a friend enters our giveaway using the unique URL you receive from Rafflecopter when you enter. Share it on social media for up to 10 additional entries!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Now for the fine print (these may be in addition to the rules listed in the Rafflecopter terms) – Winner must have a USA shipping address to claim the prize. Only one prize will be awarded; specifically in the graphite fashion. You are not eligible if you have won a carseat or any sponsored giveaway at CarseatBlog.com during 2014 or 2015 (our own giveaways of goody bags and such don’t count if no sponsor was mentioned).  Blog writers and editors are also not eligible. Only one entry per household/family, please. If you leave more than one comment, only the first one will count. We reserve the right to deem any entry as ineligible for any reason, though this would normally only be done in the case of a violation of the spirit of the rules above. We also reserve the right to edit/update the rules for any reason. The contest will close on September 13, 2015, and one random winner will be chosen shortly thereafter. If a winner is deemed ineligible based on shipping restrictions or other issues or does not respond to accept the prize within 7 days, a new winner will be selected. Good luck!

Evenflo Transitions Giveaway – CANADA

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Now for the fine print (these may be in addition to the rules listed in the Rafflecopter terms) – Winner must have Canadian shipping address to claim the prize. Only one prize will be awarded; specifically in the graphite fashion. You are not eligible if you have won a carseat or any sponsored giveaway at CarseatBlog.com during 2014 or 2015 (our own giveaways of goody bags and such don’t count if no sponsor was mentioned).  Blog writers and editors are also not eligible. Only one entry per household/family, please. If you leave more than one comment, only the first one will count. We reserve the right to deem any entry as ineligible for any reason, though this would normally only be done in the case of a violation of the spirit of the rules above. We also reserve the right to edit/update the rules for any reason. The contest will close on September 13, 2015, and one random winner will be chosen shortly thereafter. If a winner is deemed ineligible based on shipping restrictions or other issues or does not respond to accept the prize within 7 days, a new winner will be selected. Good luck!

Evenflo Transitions - 4 yo 2 Evenflo Transitions - HBB 9yo

Cleaning Out Old CPS Stuff

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My carseat throwback “stuff” only goes back around 15 years.  I know some people have accumulated carseat stuff for twice that long or more, including some genuine vintage carseats.  I freed up a lot of space recycling what seemed like 100 pounds of paper stuff alone.  Anyone else have some old goodies to share?  Feel free to add!

oldcpsstuff

 

Oh and see that nice, orange Chicco roller bag in the background?  It needs to go as well, and there are a few interesting child passenger safety odds and ends inside of it.  This giveaway won’t be random, though, and I’ll give an advantage to Car-Seat.Org community members who are still reading;-)  It’s a simple question:  What are the names of the two kitties?  I call them both Foofy at this point, in homage not only to their great excess of fur, but also an old carseat forum joke about Britax carseats that Britax later turned into a fashion!

So, the first response with both cat names correct wins the goody bag!  One entry per person/household please.  I reserve the right to select one winner from all entries if more than one answer is reasonably correct.  Everyone is welcome to enter, except for CarseatBlog editors.