Hamilton kids at risk for lack of proper car seats

HAMILTON, Ohio – A lack of proper car seats for many families at Grant Early Learning Center, in Hamilton, prompted the Hamilton Police Department to launch into action this week.

"My observation was one out of two cars was coming in with kids not in safety seats," said Sgt. Ed Buns of the Hamilton Police Department.

Buns was on routine patrol near the Head Start affiliated school, last week, when he noticed the problem. He then approached Nancy Baker, the site manager, and began talking about a way to match these families with proper car seats.

"Our main population are parents at 100 percent below poverty level," said Baker, "Often times we are receiving parents with no income at all."

Christina Gallina is a single mother whose three-year-old daughter Abby attends the school. They live with Gallina's father.

"I have a little booster seat and when I'm driving down the road she undoes the belt and comes up into the front," said Gallina.

Gallina understands that a booster seat is made for a child older and heavier than her daughter.

"Car seats are very expensive," said Gallina, "I'm trying to get another car seat but it's hard because I don't have a job."

Gallina said she makes ends meet through assistance she receives and money from her father.

"Most of the time I try to pull over to put her back but when I'm driving down the highway I can't just pull over on the side of the road," she said.

Buns said he had planned to write citations until he realized the scope of the problem. He then sat down with Baker to come up with a plan.

"Serving the community is not just writing citations. It's educating and working with them for things they need," said Buns.

Baker believes the number of her families who don't have adequate car seats is much lower than one in two but the situation is something GELC is embracing.

"Sgt. Buns is going to come out here and have face to face contact with these families and that makes it more real and more of an immediate concern," said Baker.

Wednesday the police will be passing out flyers that tell parents and guardians what the law is concerning child safety seats. In addition, Buns is looking to find a philanthropic organization that could help finance the purchase of safety seats.

Buns said, however, that he doesn't want to give them away.

"I really would rather have it where the parents have to take some action. I think if they're involved having to do just a little bit of work to get those seats that they'll appreciate them. Even something as simple as approaching the school saying, 'I need your help,'" Burns said.

Baker estimates that GELC serves only about 25 percent of the Butler County families who are eligible for Head Start and hopes more people get the message.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that  80 percent of child restraints are used incorrectly and that nearly a third of children ride in the wrong restraints for their age and size.

According to the federal group, car seats reduce the risk of death by 71 percent for infants and by 54 percent for children ages 1 to 4, and reduce the need for hospitalization by 69 percent for children ages 4 and under.

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