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Anita Jolly, St. Joseph Youth Alliance Caring Communities Director, is shown with Pack ‘N Plays distributed through the Every Child Matters Safe Crib Program.

• The St. Joseph Youth Alliance is a CTF License Plate Partner.  Funds raised from CTF plate sales sustain the Every Child Matters Safe Crib Program.
• 284 cribs/portable cribs distributed over the past 3 ½ years
• Babies should sleep Alone, on their Backs, in a Safe Crib: remove all soft objects, toys blankets, bumper pads from the sleep area.  Co-sleeping is dangerous.  
The loss of a child is heartbreaking for the child’s parents, the child’s family and the entire community, especially if the child’s death was preventable.

In 2013, the St. Joseph Youth Alliance recognized a need for improved education on safe sleeping environments for infants.  The Alliance convened a community meeting where the discussion centered on ways to reduce infant death rates and to ensure the safety of Buchanan County children.  How can we keep our kids safe?  What impacts kids?  What will make a difference?  What age is most at risk?  Who and what deserves attention?

As a result of that meeting, the Alliance launched the Every Child Matters (ECM) Infant Safe Sleep Program.  A Missouri Children’s Trust Fund grant funded the program to provide families with the tools and education needed to keep their babies safe during sleep and prevent suffocation and strangulation.

“ECM provides a portable crib to income eligible families who are pregnant or have a child under age one,” explained Anita Jolly, St. Joseph Youth Alliance Caring Communities Director.  “These portable cribs are affordable, easy to assemble and safe.”

But ECM works to alleviate parental stress, going beyond supplying a fifty dollar crib. A parent’s courage to request a crib also opens the door to other community resources and support systems. When parents pick up a crib, they are required to learn about the ABCs of safe sleep and watch the CTF Safe Sleep for Your Baby video, and they are connected to other support services. These services, like Circle of Parents and JUMP, a mentoring and employment program for young parents, provide further parenting education and child developmental assessment.

Jolly recalled a very sad event involving a homeless family staying in a local hotel.  The parents had called ECM for a crib but did not show for pick up.  The baby died that night.  Jolly said the incident reinforced the idea that the timing of an infant’s death cannot be predicted, so parents must always practice safe sleep for their babies.  She said the tragic incident enhanced community resolve to keep kids safe.

ECM benefits from strong referral relationships with Catholic Charities, Community Action Partnership (CAP) and Mosaic Life Care Medical Center. The Medical Center in particular is very invested and maintains a high level of commitment to ECM by sharing safe sleep information, including the Safe Sleep for Your Baby video, with every new parent.  A new mom may deliver her newborn and not have anywhere for the baby to sleep or means of transportation.  It is not uncommon for nurses to pick up the crib from ECM for the parent to have upon going home.

Jill Smith, St. Joseph Youth Alliance Family Connections Youth Case Manager, remembers a mom who dropped by the Alliance after hearing about ECM from the local Children’s Division office.  The mom was in need of a crib for her nine-month-old son.  She had two other children and described herself as a ‘former pill addict’, who had been clean for 1 1/2 years.  Jill worked with her to complete the paperwork, shared safe sleep information and presented the Safe Sleep for Your Baby video.  With teary eyes and heartfelt emotion, she expressed her thankfulness.  Jill then invited her to attend Circle of Parents that evening, explaining that a meal would be served and that items such as adult bed pillows, sheets and towels donated by the local Bed Bath & Beyond would be offered to attendees.  The mom gladly accepted.

Families receiving a crib are typically dealing with multiple stressful situations — homelessness, financial stress, lack of knowledge, inadequate transportation, the embarrassment of asking for help, illiteracy, a lack of social and emotional support — which may put them at higher risk of abusive or neglectful behavior toward
their child.

Jolly said the best part of working for ECM is being able to help families by actually giving them a crib during their time of greatest need, but even more important is providing a lasting safe sleep environment for the baby, and support and education to families for the long-term.  “ECM takes away some stress and pressure of feeling overwhelmed,” said Jolly.  And in this case, that means ensuring a safe place for babies to sleep.

• 96 Sleep Related Deaths
— 74 Diagnosed as Suffocation with 71 Under Age One

Region 1-Northwest Missouri
• 6 Sleep Related Deaths
— 4 Sleep Surface Sharing
— 1 Bedding or Soft Item
— 1 Wedged or Pinned

Preventing Child Deaths in Missouri, 2016 Child Fatality Review Program (CFRP) Annual Report-Missouri Department of Social Services, State Technical Assistance Team (STAT)

CTF Safe to Sleep Information