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Social Services, Child Advocacy Center enlist community's help in preventing infant deaths


Tue, Apr 24th 2018 01:20 pm
Ten babies perished in unsafe sleep conditions in Niagara County during the past five years - three of them in 2017 alone. Most were sleeping on an unsafe surface such as an adult bed, sofa or chair, and most were sleeping with at least one other person. All were under 6 months of age; eight were less than 3 months old.
The Niagara County Child Fatality Review Team on Tuesday announced a campaign to end these tragic deaths. Called "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep: Protecting Babies in Niagara County," it enlists the assistance of individuals and organizations across the county to make safe sleep a priority and to support parents in utilizing safe sleep techniques.
"After facing so many preventable deaths, it was clear we had to prioritize safe sleep on a higher level than ever before," said Niagara County Social Services Commissioner Anthony J. Restaino. "The purpose of the 'Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep' campaign is to save lives. First, we want to make sure that parents and caregivers understand the risks of unsafe sleep conditions. Second, we are enlisting the support of the entire community to help make safe sleep a priority by becoming educators and advocates themselves."
The state requires unexpected child fatalities to be fully investigated, said Social Services Senior Child Protective Caseworker Melanie Reed.
The Niagara County Child Fatality Review Team takes the additional step of reviewing those fatalities to identify ways to prevent similar tragedies in the future. A joint initiative of the Department of Social Services and the Child Advocacy Center of Niagara - a service of Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center - the team is funded by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services through a grant to the DSS.
"The Child Fatality Review Team seeks to make sense out of terrible tragedy," said Child Advocacy Center Executive Director Ann Marie Tucker. "Despite a focus on safe sleep practices on the national, state and local level, we continue to see these tragic deaths. It is clear we need to do more."
"Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep" emphasizes the importance of putting infants under 1 year of age to sleep properly for all naps and nighttime sleeps.
Safe sleep practice requires an infant sleep on a firm mattress with a fitted sheet in a safe crib, bassinet or portable crib. The sleep environment must also be free of any and all other items, including toys, blankets, pillows, crib bumpers or other objects.
Speakers emphasized that infants should never be put to sleep on surfaces not intended for infant sleep, including adult beds, couches, chairs, car seats, love seats, bouncy chairs or air mattresses.
"Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep" builds on existing services to promote safe sleep. Currently, caregivers receive safe sleep information during prenatal classes and in labor and delivery units at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center and other hospitals. Portable cribs and accessories are available for eligible babies through the Niagara County Cribs for Kids program, a joint effort of Memorial's Child Advocacy Center and its P3 Center for Teens, Moms and Kids. Cribs are available through the support of the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, the Niagara Falls Memorial Auxiliary and other donors.
The campaign also offers in-person training and provides an online toolkit and other educational resources.
Several organizations and agencies have already joined the campaign, Memorial Medical Center President and CEO Joseph A. Ruffolo said. These include EPIC for Children, Focus on Families, Help Me Grow, Hillside Family of Agencies, Native American Community Services for Erie and Niagara County, Healthy Moms Healthy Babies Coalition, the Niagara County Department of Health and the Niagara County district attorney.
For more information, visit www.cacofniagara.org or contact the Child Advocacy Center at 716-285-0045.

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