Student devotes spare time to ensuring kids are safe in cars

By Sally Crocker

Verlade Web
 
UNTHSC public health student Elizabeth Velarde – a busy mom juggling graduate school, a job and community volunteer work – understands the challenges that parents face when time is at a premium and it’s important to get things right.

Before coming to UNT Health Science Center to pursue her MPH in Maternal and Child Health, Velarde was a bilingual community educator for Family Compass, a North Texas nonprofit organization dedicated to equipping parents with the tools they need to build safe, healthy, stable families.

She trained as a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician in 2014 and has since been providing one-on-one instruction to parents on how to properly use child car seats.

“With funding through a State of Texas grant, a coworker and I created a car seat program for Family Compass when I worked there, and because I have such a personal, vested interest in the program, I have continued to stay on as a volunteer,” she said.

“We distribute and help install free car seats at community events and teach parents about important safety issues. Statistics show that many parents are not using their child car restraints as intended and need help in getting it right. That’s where we come in.”

At any given event, Velarde and Family Compass staff distribute around 35 to 40 child car seats.

Many parents are unaware that car seats expire, generally about six years after the manufacture date.

Velarde met a family at one event who had been passing safety seats down from one child to the next. In setting up the replacements, she discovered that one had been expired for over 10 years.

“Most people are very compliant once they are trained. The issue usually is that they just don’t know all the guidelines,” she said. “I have a daughter who is 8 now, and I’m pretty sure I did everything wrong at first. There is just so much to learn as a parent.”

In addition to the community events, Velarde has also taught parent education classes at apartment complexes, PTA meetings, day care locations, homeless shelters, the county jail, anywhere she could connect with parents. Family Compass receives referrals from Child Protective Services and provides case management home visits to these families, as well as teen parents. The agency offers car seats for all clients and the community.

“Most parents have 100 things on their list and would love to focus more on areas like this, but they might also be facing the stress of putting food on the table, paying the rent, finding a job or a place to live, escaping domestic violence or other situations,” she said. “So if we can help a little, it really means a lot. We want everyone to leave safer than they came.”

For more information on child car safety, parents can visit the healthychildren.org website.

Recent News

Screenshot 2024 06 20 At 3.45.01 pm
  • Our People
|Jun 20, 2024

From sacrifice to success: a journey through physical therapy school

Ancelmo Mojarro came to Fort Worth to study. The Tyler native knew he wanted to be a physical therapist early on his undergraduate days. He embarked on his path to physical therapy a decade ago, inspired by a friend's suggestion amidst his quest to find his calling in the medical field. “I starte...
Garciarosanski
  • Our People
|Jun 20, 2024

HSC pro bono physical therapy program offers hope

For 70-year-old Beverly Rozanski, the journey to improved health has been long and challenging. Raised in Michigan, Rozanski spent her childhood and early adult years struggling with physical challenges that made even the simplest tasks seem insurmountable. However, her discovery of a pro bono p...
Mills John
  • Our People
|Jun 20, 2024

Team of HSC experts develops national position statement for NCCHC on care for aging patients in correctional facilities

Addressing an overlooked and sometimes neglected patient population, a group of experts from The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth partnered with the National Commission on Correctional Health Care to write a “Care for Aging Patients in the Correctional Setting” posit...
Jennifer Fix 2 Purple
  • Education
|Jun 18, 2024

Pharmacy technician shortage driving force behind new, online prep course

A self-paced, online Pharmacy Technician Preparation Course is now being offered through The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth as a way to help combat the shortage of pharmacy technicians at hospitals, health systems and retail pharmacies. Recognized by the Pharmacy Tech...