Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Mattingly Launch Public Education Campaign Urging Parents To Be Careful About Who Watches Their Children
Radio Ads Feature Hip Hop Artist Darryl McDaniels and Simpson's Star Julie Kavner
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Administration for Children’s Services Commissioner John B. Mattingly today launched an education campaign urging New York parents to be cautious when leaving children with caregivers, even those who are relatives or close family friends. “Be Careful Who Cares for Your Child” is a radio and poster campaign created in response to a number of recent child fatalities in New York City, allegedly at the hands of a person the mother considered to be a trusted adult. The Mayor was joined at the announcement at the Safe Horizon’s Office by Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, hip-hop recording artist Darryl McDaniels and Ariel Zwang, the Chief Executive Officer of Safe Horizon.
“Very few people believe that someone they love or trust could ever hurt their child. But sadly, it happens,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Choosing an appropriate caregiver is one of the most important decisions a parent can make – and just because someone is a relative or close friend does not mean they are capable of taking care of a child.”
“When it comes to your child’s safety, you can never be too careful,” New York City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn said. “That’s why it is imperative to know and to trust the person with whom you leave your children, whether it’s for five minutes or for an afternoon. Even well-intentioned caregivers, be they family, friends, or neighbors, are not always capable or qualified to look after your child in a safe and responsible manner. I thank Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs, and Administration for Children’s Services Commissioner John B. Mattingly for bringing this deeply important issue to light for all New York parents and of course, their children.”
Since January, nine children under the age of two have been killed while left in the care of their fathers, their mothers’ companions, or a babysitter. In 2009, there were only three such fatalities in New York City.
“Caring for a crying baby is not easy. And as a parent, I understand how challenging it can be to find a good babysitter,” said Deputy Mayor Gibbs. “I encourage all parents who need help identifying appropriate childcare to call 311 for information.”
“Inexperienced or ill-suited caregivers, which can sometimes include fathers and mothers’ companions, can react violently when a child won’t stop crying,” Commissioner Mattingly said. “As we’ve recently seen here in New York City, as well as in other parts of the country, being a biological relative does not qualify you to safely care for a child. Parents must evaluate whether the person caring for their child is able to do so safely, whether it’s for just a few minutes or a couple of days.”
“The fragility of a small child cannot be emphasized enough. Yet, there have been a frightening number of incidents in Queens County within recent months in which a caregiver has been criminally charged with violently assaulting or even killing a child – the vast majority of whom were under the age of two,” said Queens District Attorney Brown. “Children are our most important resource. They are our future and we must do all that we can to reduce the menace of child abuse.”
“Safe Horizon is very pleased that Mayor Bloomberg is drawing the public’s attention to the serious issue of safety for the most vulnerable members of our society – babies and very young children,” said Safe Horizon CEO Ariel Zwang. “We are also pleased that Mayor Bloomberg chose to announce this campaign in a Child Advocacy Center, which provides comprehensive and coordinated investigation and services under one roof to physically and sexually abused children and their families.”
While the focus of this educational campaign is to inform parents about the importance of using extreme caution when choosing a babysitter or other caregiver, the campaign is also aimed at teaching parents the warning signs that identify someone who may not have the patience or experience to deal with a crying or fussy baby. Beginning tonight, New Yorkers will hear radio ads featuring Darryl McDaniels and Julie Kavner. During the next month, more radio ads will hit the airways featuring Messeret Stroman, an actor that has appeared in regional and off-Broadway theatrical productions, and Jazmín Caratini, a popular Puerto Rican actor, who delivers the message in Spanish.
“This is an important campaign that the Mayor is launching, said Darryl McDaniels. “I am honored to be a part of it. Anything I can do to help protect our children, I’m grateful to do.”
“Having raised my son as single mother, I am aware of how challenging it is to find suitable child care,’” said Council Member Annabel Palma, chair of the New York City Council’s General Welfare Committee. “Every caregiver’s primary focus must be the safety of the children. Before leaving your child in someone else’s care, ask pointed questions about the caregiver’s experience, their plan in case of emergency and how they would respond to an upset or unwell child. Set clear expectations, outline safety precautions and rules, and create an emergency contact list; post both the rules and contact list in a visible part of your home – taped to your fridge for example. Do a practice run while you are in your home with your caregiver and child, observing how the caregiver performs and how your child responds. Most importantly, trust your instincts.”
To complement the radio campaign, a city-wide poster campaign is also being launched with the posters slated to be placed in subway cars, barber shops, beauty salons, bodegas, grocery stores, high schools, colleges, libraries, hospitals and prenatal clinics beginning in August.
When choosing a caregiver, parents should select someone who:
- Has experience caring for babies and young children.
- Is patient and mature enough to care for a fussy, overexcited or crying baby.
- Understands that young children must always be watched.
- Will never shake, hit, yell at, make fun of, or withhold food from a child as punishment.
- Does not abuse alcohol or drugs, or carry a weapon, and will not surround a child with others who may be drinking, using or selling drugs, or carrying weapons.
There are warning signs of a potentially dangerous caregiver include someone who is:
- Angry or severely impatient when children have tantrums, cry or misbehave.
- Violent and/or controlling with their partners.
- Physically or verbally abusive with children.
- An abuser of alcohol and drugs, including marijuana.
- Using prescription medications that have bad side effects or make them drowsy.
- Not trust worthy for any reason.
Shaking a baby or toddler can cause bleeding in the brain that can injure or even kill a child. It takes only a few seconds of shaking to seriously hurt a baby’s developing brain. The children in New York City that died this year sustained fatal injuries as a result of Shaken Baby Syndrome, blunt force trauma to the head and internal injuries. There have been arrests in six of the cases and police continue investigations in the other three.
When caring for a child:
- Never shake the child.
- Make sure he or she isn’t hungry, wet, cold or hot.
- Offer a pacifier.
- Walk around holding the baby close to you, in your arms or in a carrier; try talking or singing.
- Call a trusted friend, relative or neighbor who is able to come over and talk and keep you company.
- If all else fails, put your baby in the crib. Make sure the child is safe. Check in every five minutes or so. It is much better to let the baby cry than to do something to stop the crying that may be harmful.
The Administration for Children’s Services continues to work on several initiatives to protect children and educate families about child safety. Parents and other caregivers who are interested in learning more about how to safely care for a child can call 311 and request copies of the City’s child safety brochures and DVDs.
Teachers, physicians, child care workers and other professionals who closely interact with children on a daily basis are legally required to report suspected cases of abuse and neglect to the state’s child abuse hotline, the New York State Central Register (SCR) of Child Abuse and Maltreatment, (800) 635-1522. Other New Yorkers who suspect that they, or someone they know, may be suffering from child abuse or neglect should call 311 and ask to be connected to the state’s child abuse hotline.
Stu Loeser/Jessica Scaperotti (Mayor) (212) 788-2958
Laura Postiglione (Children’s Services) (212) 341-0999