The Fort Frances “Best Start” Hub is hosting a car seat clinic this Friday (Aug. 24), in partnership with the Couchiching Family Wellbeing Program (CFWP) and United Native Friendship Centre, to promote the health and safety of children by educating and coaching parents and caregivers in car and booster seat safety.
“Our job is to teach them how to do it so the parents [and caregivers] are involved in the whole process,” said hub co-ordinator Karly Rousseau, who is CPSAC-certified.
The Child Passenger Safety Association of Canada (CPSAC) was in town earlier this year, offering those in the fields of health care, emergency response, family resources, social work, and child care, as well as parents and caregivers, certified training in the installation, use, best practice recommendations, and the law of car seats.
A few members of the “Best Start” hub, CFWP, and UNFC took part in the two-day training and received their CPSAC-certifications.
The car seat clinic will be held near the playground at the Point from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., with a lunch to be provided.
Registration is not required and the clinic is free of charge.
Rousseau said many people may find the installation of car seats confusing. She's hoping to ease some of that frustration at the clinic by helping parents and caregivers feel safe with their children in the vehicle.
But she stressed those attending the clinic need to bring their car seat and vehicle manuals to ensure the two are a good fit as it's possible the two may not be compatible.
“Some seats just don't fit in some vehicles,” Rousseau noted.
If the manuals are not available, they always can be found online.
Transport Canada and CPSAC provide guidelines on the different stages children will enter as they go from infant carriers to seatbelts, and Rousseau said it can be exciting for kids to move up into “big kid” seats.
But safety should be the biggest factor.
“If your child needs to move up or you want them to move up sooner, then they can—if you get the proper seat for them,” she explained.
"Lots of people just do it because they're antsy for it [and] kids are so excited because they feel older.
“But we usually try to encourage them not to move up too soon,” she stressed.
There are many aspects that are taken into consideration when determining if a car seat is the right fit, including the child's height and weight, whether it should be rear- or front-facing, and if it is latched to the seat properly, as well as ensuring it's Canadian-made.
“U.S. car seats are illegal in Canada,” said Shelly Mallet, a Healthy Babies/Healthy Children worker at the UNFC here who also is CPSAC-certified.
She noted a Canadian-made car seat will have a “National Safety Mark” and adheres to Canadian safety standards.
In addition, car seats also will expire. While it is not required through regulation, manufacturers will note the recommended life to inform owners of the risk of using car and booster seats that have exceeded its lifespan.
That's because repeated use and exposure to sunlight can weaken the plastic, safe-use labels will fade over time, spilled beverages and food can affect how the pieces work, and safety standards and regulations could change, among others things.
Mallet added it's also not recommended to purchase or sell used car and booster seats.
“You're supposed to cut off the straps and throw it away," she said. ”Just because you don't know if the car seats were in an accident or not so you don't know if all the parts are functioning properly.
“We really try to tell people to try to buy new instead of buying them off Facebook pages and stuff,” Mallet stressed.
And while a car seat may not look damaged after a moderate or severe vehicle collision, or it was empty at the time of the incident, Transport Canada and CPSAC recommend replacement because minor fractures can occur and hinder the performance of the car seat.
“It can even just have a fracture inside that you can't even see," said Mallet. ”It could be, say, in the back where the belts go in.
“It could just be a hairline crack and then if they're rear-ended again, it could just automatically break.”
It also is strongly recommended the owner register the seat with the manufacturer when new car and booster seats are purchased, as this is the easiest way to keep informed about important notices and safety recalls.
The clinic is being held during the “Best Start" Hub's weekly "Point Day” activities.
Rousseau stressed a thorough scan of the area for discarded needles, garbage, and other dangerous items is done prior to any activities taking place.
Anyone with questions can contact the Fort Frances “Best Start” Hub at 274-8588 or send it a message via its Facebook page.