Car seat safety: Proper fit and installation is 3 quadrillion times more important than a pretty pattern

In yesterday’s post, I pointed out that the best way to protect your child from the #1 killer of children 1-19 years old is to put them in the right safety seat, which is properly installed, EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. When used properly, child safety and booster seats are proven “life savers,” reducing the risk of fatal injury by 71% for infants and 54% for toddlers.

Yesterday I addressed the EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. piece of the equation. Today I want to talk about the right safety seat, which is properly installed bit.

***Inappropriately restrained children are nearly three and a half times more likely to be seriously injured in crashes compared to children buckled up properly.***
Whether your child rides in a Britax Advocate, Peg Perego Convertible or Evenflo Tribute Sport Convertible, THE. MOST. IMPORTANT. FACTORS. ARE:
  • Right SeatThe most expensive car seat on the market will not protect your child if it is not the right size for your child or not installed properly!!! 

For your child: Check your car seat’s manual to make sure it’s appropriate for your child’s age, weight and height. Did you know your car seat has an expiration date? Make sure you double check the label on your car seat to make sure it is still safe.

For your car: Make sure your safety seat can be properly installed in your vehicle. Be sure to read both the car seat manual and car’s owner’s manual carefully and follow all installation instructions. Toys ‘R’ Us and Babies ‘R’ Us will let you take one car seat at a time out to car to test installation. Even if you opt to buy online, testing the install before buying can save you enormous time and irritation. 

  • Right Direction: Keep your child rear-facing for as long as possible. The law usually requires that a child remain rear-facing until reaching 1 year of age AND 20 pounds, but the AAP and NHTSA recommend waiting until the child reaching the maximum height or weight of their rear-facing car seat. Children under age two are 75% less likely to be killed or suffer severe injuries in a crash if they are riding rear facing rather than forward facing. In fact, for children 1–2 years of age, facing the rear is five times saferRear-facing car seats are NOT a safety risk just because a child’s legs are bent at the knees or because they can touch/kick the vehicle seat.
  • Inch TestOnce your car seat is installed, give it a good shake at the belt path. Can you move it more than an inch side to side or front to back? A properly installed seat will not move more than an inch at the belt path.
  • Pinch Test: Make sure the harness is tightly buckled and coming from the correct slots (check car seat manual). Now, with the chest clip placed at armpit level, slide your middle finger under the shoulder strap and pinch the strap between your thumb and index finger. If you are unable to pinch any excess webbing, you’re good to go.
  • Right Place: All children under 13 should ride in the back seat. The middle back seat is the safest, if the car seat can be installed properlyNever place a rear-facing car seat in a front seat equipped with airbags.
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Is your child’s life worth 20 minutes of your time?

According to SafeKids.org, motor vehicle accidents are the leading killer of children 1 to 19 years old in the US. The best way to protect your child is to put them in the right safety seat, which is properly installed, EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. When used properly, child safety and booster seats are proven “life savers,” reducing the risk of fatal injury by 71% for infants and 54% for toddlers.

Car seats are a hot-button for me. It’s a simple step, but ignoring it could literally get your child killed. I understand that Ducklings don’t like to be restrained. Believe me, I know how physically exhausting it can be to get a good install – especially on a rear-facing seat. And don’t get me started on installing a car seat in a two-door. I get that it’s a hassle to check the install and fit every time you get in the car. But we’re genuinely talking about life and death.

Full disclosure: I have ZERO patience for the reasons that parents and caregivers give for skipping this step. Some of the most common excuses in my experience:

He really hates being in a car seat, he cries the whole time. What I am supposed to do – let him cry the whole trip?

Yep, let him cry the whole trip. Ideally, you would have the opportunity to take several short rides around town *with the baby properly restrained in the car seat* to get him acclimated to riding in the seat. But that’s not always doable – particularly if you’re a foster parent who has to drive to pick up a child.

I’ve listened to a child screaming in her seat for an entire 90-minute drive – it broke my heart to let her cry, but we had to make the trip, and she had to go with us, so she had to ride in her seat. I rode where I could see her and she could see me, and I tried talking to her, soothing, singing, playing, etc, throughout the drive. But at no point did I indicate that getting out of the car seat was an option. Evidently she figured that out, because she didn’t make a peep on the way back. And hasn’t since.

I’m just driving right around my small town and I’m really careful and I only go 25 mph.

Are you really willing to bet your baby’s life that everyone else in your little small town is really careful and only going 25 mph? Or that a cow won’t dart out in front of you? (I don’t know how small your town is)

Yes, I know that cows don’t really “dart”, so we’ll let that go for now. For argument’s sake, let’s say no one in your little town drives over 20 mph. Then one day, as you’re very carefully, very slowly, driving down the main road, Miss Daisy (going in the opposite direction) swerves to dodge a squirrel and hits you head-on. No problem, right? You’re both only driving 20 mph, so it’s a minor impact, right? Except airbags can deploy when the vehicle crashes at speeds over *12 mph*. And when it does deploy, the airbag is moving at between 62 and 180+ mph. So if little Suzy is sitting on your lap (probably near eye-level with the top of the steering wheel) when that airbag deploys….

We didn’t have car seats when I was a kid, and I turned out just fine!

Ok, fair enough. Do you also let your kid eat lead paint and spend all day in chain-smoking Uncle Ned’s second-hand smoke? If your answer is yes, you win – it’s probably better if you limit your influence in the gene pool, anyway.

What other excuses have you heard for not taking the time to protect your child from the leading cause of death in children? Let me know in the comments.

The Unfortunate Sequel to “What to Do If Your Family Isn’t Supportive”

This post is going to be tough, because I’m pretty sure a door is closing. It’s one that probably needs to close, but it’s still painful. However, I feel obligated to report on a grave error in judgment that *luckily* wasn’t disastrous for my kids. In my first post about dealing with less-than-supportive family members, I told you about how my mom wasn’t excited about us fostering, but went all-in with being a foster grandma… So much so that when I got news that meant Lady Bug would probably be leaving us soon, she decided to hop on a plane to come meet her.

I just hope that my babies weren’t harmed by my wishful thinking. They seem fine, but I introduced even more strangers into their lives who disappeared without saying good-bye and subjected the kids to a very tense environment for about 24 hours. I did my best to minimize the impact to the ducklings, but I did lose my cool at one point – luckily the boys were asleep, so I think they missed the whole thing.

I don’t want to get into the gory details here, I just feel like I need to revisit what I said about giving people the chance to surprise you. That’s still a good thing to do… But make sure you’re protecting your Ducklings at the same time, and paying attention.

I wanted my mom’s support so badly that I ignored many, *many* warning signs:

  • She was *far* from supportive of my infertility struggles:
    • even after I told her several times it was hurtful when she told me to “just relax”, she still made it clear that she was certain that’s what the problem was. She would say, “Well, you don’t want me to say what I think, so I won’t say it, but…” Seriously – that’s a direct quote that I heard many times.
    • when I hit rock-bottom, and begged her to come out to Florida because I needed my mommy, she couldn’t make it. She made a couple of pleasure jaunts to Colorado that summer, but couldn’t afford to come to Florida.
    • she was incessantly very vocal about her disappointment with our decision not to pursue IVF.
  • When I called to tell her we had decided to foster, she was adamantly opposed.
    • She said, “it would be different if you were calling to tell me you’re pregnant.”
    • She point-blank said that I shouldn’t foster because I shouldn’t take on other people’s problems, and foster kids come with a lot of baggage.
    • I know that one of the reasons she was against me fostering was because she was afraid of getting close to the kids and then having her heart broken when they leave. She never said so, and would never admit it, but I’m certain this is the case based on family history.
  • I mentioned in my previous post that she sent recordable story books for Christmas and balloons for birthdays. Only for Lady Bug. In all fairness, we didn’t have Squirm at Christmas, and Squish spent Christmas with his bio-dad and was being reunified any minute. But she didn’t even acknowledge the boys’ birthday.
  • Since we started fostering, her calls are much less frequent, and she almost never asks about the Ducklings. She never asks for pictures or to talk to them on the phone – even though she knows Lady Bug *loves* to talk on the phone.

The biggest sign I missed that I really wish I’d paid attention to: I’ve asked her to come meet my Ducklings more than a half-dozen times over the last year. But it’s just never convenient…. There’s always something more important. That alone would’ve spoken volumes if I’d slowed down and listened….

My mom refuses to accept that foster ducklings have underlying trauma that sometimes requires allowances. I’m not talking about giving a kid what they want because they throw a tantrum, or letting them be rude or violent. I’m talking about giving a 2-year-old time to come to you because she’s had far too many strangers walk into her life and disrupt it.

My mom thinks that I should trust her – the fact that she’s raised a few kids and been around kids and worked with learning-disable students means she’s perfectly capable of deciding how to approach a foster duckling – even though *none* of her experience includes foster children. And even though she rushed Lady Bug even after being given a heads-up about her needs and boundaries. Since Lady Bug didn’t seem upset to HER (the woman who just laid eyes on her for the first time ever), meaning she didn’t pull away and run screaming, Mom is convinced that I’m being unreasonable because… well, I won’t go into all the things wrong with me – we’ll just say it’s because I’m a horrible person and leave it at that.

There’s more – an argument about who gets to decide what toys are allowed in my house (me or my mom), old arguments about how ungrateful and selfish I am… But there’s no need really to get into all of that.

The crux of the matter is that I could have caused further harm to my Ducklings by introducing them to someone who is incapable or unwilling to set the Ducklings’ needs above her own. She was against us fostering in the first place, and has never actually been supportive. The Ducklings weren’t harmed (I don’t think), but if I’d listened better and paid closer attention, I could’ve avoided the risk.

So if you have family and friends who aren’t supportive while you’re making the decision to foster, weigh their words and actions very carefully before determining whether they’ll be good or bad for your Ducklings.

A Crash Course on TPR (in our experience)

By popular demand: a crash course on the Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) process (disclaimer: this is based on our experience, your mileage may vary). For the vast, vast, vast majority of children that come into care, the initial goal is reunification with the parents. For a multitude of reasons, the goal may at some point change to TPR & Adoption. (Updated 11.27.14: now that we’ve done this a couple of times, I have more information.)

  • DCF or GAL requests a change of goal to TPR/Adoption
  • The judge asks the other attorneys (DCF, GAL and parents’ attorneys) their position on the change
  • The judge may order the change of goal. If not, continue current case plan; lather, rinse, repeat
  • If judge approves TPR/Adoption goal, an Advisory hearing is set for approximately 45 days later
  • At the Advisory hearing, if it’s not continued*, each bio parent has the following options:
    • Fail to show up for the hearing. In this case, their parental rights are terminated by default. This is considered an involuntary termination (this is a surprisingly popular option).
    • Show up and voluntarily surrender their child. This is a no-take-backs situation. The judge takes the time to make certain the parent knows what is happening and that they can’t change their mind later and hasn’t been promised anything, blah, blah, blah.
      • If a bio parent nos-shows the Advisory hearing or voluntarily surrenders, a Disposition hearing is set for 2-3 weeks later At this hearing the termination/surrender is “dispo’d” or finalized and and that bio parent has no further rights to the child. 
    • Show up and contest the termination. Then a date is set for TPR Pre-trial and TPR Hearing.
      • If they lose at the hearing, their parental rights are involuntarily terminated.
      • If they don’t show up for the hearing, their parental rights are involuntarily terminated.
      • If they no-show or lose the TPR trial, the case is typically “dispo’d” immediately.
  • After dispo, there is a 30-day appeal period for involuntary termination of parental rights
*Why might it be continued, you ask? I’m sure there are myriad reasons. The State of Florida prefers not to terminate the rights of one parent while leaving the other parent’s rights intact.

There are exceptions, when one parent presents a demonstrable threat to the child and the other parent lives out of state and is trying to get a homestudy done, is one example I’ve heard. But in the normal course of business, the State prefers to sever all parental rights at the same time. For this reason, if one parent surrenders, but the other wants a trial, the surrender will not be “dispo’d” until the second parent’s rights are terminated. Also for this reason, if the bio father has not been identified, the Advisory hearing can continued. – How many times can it be continued? I’ll have to get back to you…

Infertility still sucks…

Over the weekend, I requested to join a couple of Infertility groups on Facebook.

As I got approved for the groups last night, I popped in and read a couple of posts.

Wow. Holy emotional blindside, Batman!

The vast majority of the time, I’ve made peace with my infertility – I even almost went to a baby shower earlier this year! 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I truly believe that God has a plan for me – and I am indescribably grateful that His plan has led me to foster parenting – and I’m not sure I could have convinced SuperDad to foster if we’d been able to conceive.

But reading the stories of women that are still in the trenches – still fighting infertility… That was intense. I was definitely caught off guard by the rush of emotions.

I feel pulled to participate in these groups – to provide support to these women that are still struggling, if only to serve as a witness to their battle with unspeakable heartache – and maybe a ray of hope to those looking for alternatives to the fight… I want to let them know that it IS okay to stop treatment – to stop trying. I want to let them know that it is possible to fall absolutely head-over-heels in love with a child someone else gave birth to.

So I’m going to do my best to stick it out with these groups. If I can help one women find peace, or help another family discover the joy of foster parenting… Then I can help save more starfish.