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Mercy receives Child Safety Seat grant to serve low-income families

Mercy Hospital has been awarded a child safety seat grant from the Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety that allows Mercy to distribute child safety seats and boosters to low-income families.

"Securing your child in the appropriate child passenger restraint is one of the most important steps you can take to ensure your child’s safety," says Amanda Paull, Mercy CPS Technician. "This grant will help families in need obtain the proper child safety seats and boosters in order to protect their children when riding in the car."

Eligible families will need to complete an application in order to receive a seat and/or booster. The child passenger restraints will be distributed on a first come, first served basis. Limited numbers of seats and boosters are available.

In addition to receiving the appropriate child passenger restraint, families will also receive instruction on its proper installation by a Mercy nurse certified in Child Passenger Safety.

"This education component is critically important," Paull explained. "In Minnesota, 83 percent of child restraints are used incorrectly, meaning children are riding in the wrong restraint or it is not properly secured."

Paull also stressed the importance of booster seats. "Under Minnesota’s booster seat law, children cannot ride in a seat belt alone until they turn eight years of age or reach 4 feet 9 inches tall--whichever comes first," she said. Mercy Hospital recommends keeping children in a booster seat based on their height rather than their age.

Boosters are for children who have outgrown a forward-facing seat, usually around 40 pounds and age four. Booster seats lift children up so that seat belts fit them properly. “A sign that a seat belt does not fit properly and a booster is still needed is if children wrap the shoulder belt behind them to avoid the belt rubbing against their neck,” Paull said.

Paull says a major issue with child passenger safety is that parents are not aware of the restraint steps children should progress through as they age and grow. Paull encourages parents and caregivers to test their child seats to make sure they are properly installed. Mercy will offer free child passenger safety clinics throughout the spring and summer. Check the newspaper or Mercy’s website for dates, times and locations.

The most common child passenger safety mistakes are:

  • Turning a child from a rear-facing restraint to a forward-facing restraint too soon—wait until at least age one and 20 pounds but age two is recommended.
  • Restraint is not secured tight enough--it should not shift more than one inch side-to-side or out from the seat.
  • Harness on the child is not tight enough--if you can pinch harness material, it’s too loose.
  • Retainer clip is up too high or too low--should be at the child’s armpit level.
  • The child is in the wrong restraint--don’t rush your child into a seat belt.

Mercy Hospital has been active in its role to keep children safe by providing all newborns with a free rear-facing infant car seat when they go home. All of the Mercy Birthing Center nurses have been trained as CPS Technicians and are qualified to instruct parents on properly installing car seat restraints.

Safety seat and booster application forms for low-income families are available by calling Mercy at 218-485-5521.

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