Cattaraugus County residents can count on the availability of safe car seats without any budget strain thanks in part to a grant from the Community Fund at the Cattaraugus Region Community Foundation.
CRCF’s board of directors approved a $1,200 grant to Ardent Solutions for the organization’s Child Passenger Safety Seat Program, which expanded its services into Cattaraugus County in late 2016.
The program provides education and assistance from certified car seat technicians, as well as access to free, safe car seats for families who meet income eligibility requirements.
“Outreach, education and car seat inspection services target all families with small children, with special emphasis on low-income families, grandparents raising grandchildren, foster parents and those receiving public assistance,” said Helen Evans, Ardent Solutions associate director.
Education and inspections are just as important in the program as providing new car seats, Evans stressed.
“Before a family can receive a car seat, we have them watch a 30-minute educational video and train them on proper use and installation,” she said.
“We also plan to attend WIC [Women, Infant, and Children] clinics throughout Cattaraugus County beginning this spring. We often find that people have installed the car seats improperly or their children have outgrown them,” said Evans. “At that point, we either offer hands-on training or appropriate car seats to replace those that are no longer safe.”
National statistics indicate that 75 percent of children are not properly restrained in a motor vehicle. Proper child restraints reduce mortalities in traffic incidents by 71 percent for infants 1 or younger and by 54 percent for children between 1 and 4.
“The CRCF board agreed that this grant would benefit our community significantly,” said CRCF Executive Director Karen Niemic Buchheit. “When you look at the national statistics, you see that this grant can do so much to keep the children of our community safe.”
Evans said that the grant from the Community Fund filled a need for increased funding when the program was encouraged to expand into Steuben and Cattaraugus counties after initially serving Allegany County alone.
“The added funding from the grant is important to us because we do not want to turn anyone away, and the need is great,” Evans said.
“Car seats are expensive on a limited budget,” she added. “We see that people will buy car seats at lawn sales or receive car seats as hand-me-downs. Sometimes the car seat may not fit the child, may be out dated, has been in crash or has been recalled. They just are not safe.”
Since the program began in Allegany County, it has allowed for approximately 250 car seat inspections and has distributed over 150 new car seats to families in need. The program is also funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration with a grant from the New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee.
“We were thrilled to be able to expand into Steuben and Cattaraugus County,” Evans said. “It is such a joy to help families transport their children safer. To learn more about the Child Passenger Safety Program, families are welcome to visit Ardent Solutions online at www.ardentnetwork.org or by calling 585-593-5223, ext. 1014.