Now I lay me down to sleep … but am I safe? That’s the question a local agency is asking childcare providers and parents.
In December 2010, the Consumer Product Safety Commission mandated new safety standards be implemented for all cribs sold or manufactured in the United States by June 28, 2011. While stores already are carrying the new products, childcare services, such as daycare centers and in-home providers, have until Dec. 28 to replace all noncompliant cribs with the new, safer models.
The new standards require strengthening slats, improving mattress support, eliminating drop sides, making hardware stronger and conducting more rigorous testing. While the standards are lauded in the childcare community, the cost is staggering for many providers.
The Child Care Resource Center, which serves Lorain, Erie, Huron, Seneca and Sandusky counties, has first-hand knowledge of the dilemma.
When the updated crib regulations were first announced, the nonprofit agency — which offers support to families and the childcare community through referral services, curriculum, training, community planning and advocacy — was inundated with emails and calls from the childcare centers, preschools and in-home providers it serves.
Education was the first step.
The agency sent out its e-newsletter informing centers of the pending changes, and then went to work looking for answers.
Luckily, an answer, at least for some in Lorain County, came to them.
“We were approached by the Community Foundation of Lorain County, which generously offered to provide a grant,” said Kim Shibley, infant/toddler specialist with the agency. “Out of that $25,000 grant, we were able to help nonprofit childcare centers purchase cribs through Child Source, a wholesale distributor in Medina.”
Additional funds were set aside to offer a childcare seminar, which will be open to the public, as well as childcare providers throughout the area. The Safe and Secure Head to Toe: Birth to Three conference will be held 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Lorain County Community College. The keynote speaker at the conference is child development expert Dr. T. Berry Brazelton.
Breakout sessions on safe sleep practices, diapering and handwashing, biting and interacting with babies also will be offered.
Seven childcare programs will receive new cribs at no cost through the Community Foundation grant: Oberlin Early Childhood Center, Park Place Early Learning, Regent Academy, Neighborhood Alliance-Lorain, Neighborhood Alliance-Elyria, Wee Care Community Child Care and Faith House Academy.
“Many of the programs were financially feeling the burden with these new standards,’’ said Becky Shaw, who handles the agency’s marketing and fundraising. “It was such a stress for them. To be able to have the Community Foundation step up to make this happen is huge.”
The idea of having to find the money for another unfunded federal mandate worried Jennifer Harris, executive director of Oberlin Early Childhood Center.
“I thought, ‘Uh-oh … How are we going to do this?’ ” Harris recalled.
The grant enabled the center to purchase the 20 cribs it needed for the 16 to 18 infants it cares for and free up about $5,000 in funds for other needed items, such as desks, chairs and bicycles for the rest of the year. It also provided peace of mind knowing that the kids were going to be safe.
“We know that we will be getting sturdier cribs,” Harris said. “The drop-down sides will not be a risk for falling down and hurting a child. The spindles will be spaced appropriately. They are put together better, stronger, safer.”
Many other providers in Lorain County not eligible for the grant will see some relief thanks to the generosity of vendors who have agreed to offer various discounts from free shipping to 10 or 15 percent off the purchase prices. Those vendors are Discount School Supply, Kaplan Early Learning,and Lakeshore Learning.
And the breaks are needed. Some daycare centers could require 10 to 20 cribs, while in-home providers could need two to three. Depending on the size and style, cost could range from $150 to $350 per crib.
“Trying to afford to replace these cribs can be a pretty significant drain on their resources,” said Jennifer Dodge, executive director of the Child Care Resource Center. “It’s a huge amount of money for those folks, and they are likely already working on a shoestring budget.”
The Department of Job and Family Services inspects and licenses daycare providers, and beginning Dec. 29, those not in compliance will be marked with deficiencies. If a provider receives enough points against it, fines or sanctions could be imposed and, in a worst-case scenario, the license revoked. Parents already can view the ratings given to providers online at www.odjfs.state.oh.us/cdc/query.asp. Staring Dec. 29, the public can also see which centers have been marked for unsafe cribs.
While childcare providers are being informed of the changes being made by the federal government, often parents or grandparents might not be as aware.
“The general public needs to understand that most cribs out there are not safe and are not going to meet the standards, unless you purchase them in the store,” Shibley said. “Second-hand stores, Goodwill, even garage sales are not legally allowed to sell the old cribs because they do not meet the new standards.”
The Child Care Resource Center suggests that if you already own a crib to verify with the manufacturer that it meets the new safety standards and check to make sure it has not been recalled by going to www.cspc.gov.
The agency also warns against buying previously used cribs, or using hand-me-down cribs.
“Our main goal is to keep the children safe,” Shaw said.
Contact Christina Jolliffe at 329-7155 or email@example.com.