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Look Before You Lock

August 17, 2012
Alexandria, VA

As a mother and new grandmother, there is nothing more frightening than the thought of losing a child. No family should ever have to face that terrible loss especially from something preventable like heatstroke.

So when Secretary LaHood asked our department to join the Look Before You Lock Campaign, I said: where do we sign up?

As Secretary LaHood just explained, this campaign is about giving adults information and tools they can use to help make sure they don’t forget about the children in their care -- or accidentally leave a sleeping child, too small to be seen in the rear view mirror, in a van or bus used in a preschool program.

And our department has a great resource for reaching those adults in the thousands of Head Start and Early Head Start centers and child care programs that we support and oversee across the country, serving more than 13 million children and their families.

So we are reaching out, by sending a joint letter to the caregivers, and administrators in early childhood programs to enlist them as partners in the Look Before You Lock Campaign.

We are starting by asking our early care and education providers to use the Look Before You Lock campaign’s safety tips and to share them with staff, families, and local communities.  Parents need to get in the habit of looking in the back seat before they lock the car.  And, bus drivers who transport children back and forth to preschool and child care programs, need to walk to the back and look at every seat to make sure there is no child sleeping or playing quietly, still in the bus.

Next, we’re distributing a new voluntary cooperative pledge that providers can use with each family they serve. This would be a shared commitment.  Both providers and parents agree to notify each other if a child does not show up when expected.  This simple step of ensuring that adults are notified when a child isn’t where he or she is expected, can make all the difference in preventing a tragedy.

Over the next year, our Department’s Administration for Children and Families will be launching a nationwide training series for Head Start and other early care and education providers.  The training will be focused on child health and safety with an emphasis on transportation safety. 

What these efforts say is that we all have a role to play -- whether it is as a parent, an educator, a child care provider, the bus driver for a Head Start program, or simply a good Samaritan who sees an unattended child and does the right thing by taking action and calling 911. Only by working together, can we ensure that no child is ever left behind in a parked vehicle again.

Now I’m delighted to turn things over to Dr. Leticia Ryan attending physician in Emergency Medicine at Children’s National Medical Center. Thank you Dr. Ryan.