As the coordinator of the United Way of Weld County Bright by Three program, I hear a lot of concerns about car seats from parents and caregivers. Car seats are so important, and at the same time, so confusing and difficult to use correctly.
Another thing car seats are is expensive. Running from around $50 to $250-plus, they represent a large investment for families. An investment many families simply can’t afford. Not all car seats fit rear-facing in all cars. Not all car seats can fit three across a back seat. The safety and comfort level of seats usually increases with the price. Because they are so expensive, some people use infant car seats long after a child should be in a convertible-style seat.
Some older children use no seat at all, when they really need to be in a booster or high-back booster for years longer. Some people use second-hand seats, which can be a very dangerous practice. Car seats expire after a few years, and it can be difficult to tell if a seat has been in an accident. Luckily, the fire departments in Weld County are wonderful about inspecting seats for safety at no cost to families.
However, what’s a family to do if their seat is found to be unsafe and unusable? Or if a family has a premature baby that they haven’t had time to purchase a seat for? What about families who suddenly become responsible for grandchildren that they hadn’t planned on raising? What about families who have to flee abusive relationships with just the clothes on their backs? Most of these families don’t have the extra money to buy new car seats. They haven’t had time to save up, and there are very few agencies that help with providing affordable car seats.
Families in Weld County need help obtaining car seats. In 2015, the United Way of Weld County 2-1-1 Resource and Referral Line received around 190 phone calls requesting assistance with obtaining car seats. This represents a small percentage of the people who needed help, but not knowing about 2-1-1, turned to family members or friends for assistance instead. Hospitals no longer provide a car seat to get your new baby home. No place will touch a used car seat out of fear that it has an unknown past that makes it unsafe and that will come back to haunt them.
Purchasing a new seat is the safest way to go for everyone involved. There simply are not resources out there to assist with this. If we really want to decrease deaths and injuries of children from car accidents in Weld County, we need to help families obtain affordable car seats. We need funders to be willing to partner with nonprofit agencies, hospitals and social services to assist families in getting, and being educated about the proper use of, these seats. We need sliding-scale programs, or more donation-based programs that families in need can turn to. If you know of a resource to help with this issue, would like to donate car seats, serve on a task force to explore solutions, know of a family who needs support or would like to share other ideas with me, please contact me at (970) 304-6174 or at email@example.com to discuss this issue.