NEWS | Aug. 10, 2010

New Parent Support Program educates parents on installation of child safety seats

By Robert Goetz 502nd Air Base Wing OL-B Public Affairs

Law enforcement officers throughout Texas now have the authority to arrest or issue citations to motorists who do not comply with the state's child passenger safety seat law.

An education program available at Randolph gives parents the information they need to meet the law's requirements and a local financial services company is helping the cause by donating hundreds of child safety seats that can be used by families in the military community.

The next opportunity for parents to learn how to properly install their children's safety seats and possibly qualify for new seats occurs Wednesday from 3:30-6 p.m. in the cafeteria at Randolph Elementary School.

"The target group are children in first through fifth grades," said Debra Spencer, 359th Medical Operations Squadron New Parent Support Program coordinator. "We'll bring the back seats of SUVs into the cafeteria and show parents how to properly install booster seats. Then they'll go out and install their seats in their vehicles."

Booster seats lift children up to a height where they can safely use a vehicle's lap and shoulder seat belts. Other categories of child safety seats are convertible seats, which can be used for infants to face the rear of the vehicle and for toddlers to face the front, and infant seats.

Ms. Spencer, who is the only certified Child Passenger Safety technician at Randolph, said donated seats will be given to parents whose seats have been involved in an accident or recalled, have expired or are now too small for their children. Donated seats do not include infant seats.

The event is open only to Randolph Elementary School and Randolph Youth Center students whose parents are active-duty or retired military. An ID card must be presented.

In addition to the event at the youth center, Ms. Spencer and other CPS technicians conduct monthly clinics on-base, offering 30-minute slots per family to educate and train parents on the installation of car safety seats. The clinics are typically held the third Monday of every month from 9-11 a.m., but the August clinic is scheduled for Aug. 23, the fourth Monday, from 9-11 a.m. Children must accompany their parents.

The clinics began in April, when 35 seats were given to parents. A month later, 65 seats were distributed, she said.

The new state law, which became effective Sept. 1, 2009, requires all children younger than 8 years old, unless they're taller than 4 feet 9 inches, to be in a child safety seat; it also requires seats to be installed according to the seat manufacturer's instructions, including age, height and weight requirements.

Ms. Spencer said the clinics fill a critical role.

"They're important because we've seen children riding in car seats that have expired, or they're too big for their seats or they're facing in the wrong direction," she said. "Infants must be placed in rear-facing seats until they are 1 year old and 20 pounds, but you should keep them in rear-facing seats as long as possible. They offer much better protection in an accident."

When parents arrive at a clinic, technicians see how their children look in their seats and if the straps are attached properly. They take the seats out and determine if the seats have been recalled, if they have expired or if they're too small. Once the parents fill out a form detailing their children's age, height and weight and other information, the education process begins.

"The purpose of the program is to educate families on the proper use of car seats because they can save lives," Ms. Spencer said.

To sign up for the event at the youth center or for more information on the monthly clinics, call Ms. Spencer at 652-3340.