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KATHY SAUCHUK FOLDS down the carrying handle on a child’s car seat – one mistake many moms make is leaving the handle up while driving. Sauchuk inspects seats to keep kids safe, but her funding has been cut.

Safety Program
Loses Funding

By Jeanne Sager
LIBERTY — September 30, 2005 – Hundreds of children are riding the roads of Sullivan County in a compromised position – and their moms don’t even know it.
Kathy Sauchuk, traffic safety educator at Sullivan County BOCES, has inspected hundreds of car seats over the years.
“Only one mom had it installed properly,” she said. “Whether they’re well-educated or not educated at all, they’re making the same mistakes.”
Even the most well-meaning parent faces complicated directions and the challenge of finding the right seat for their vehicle.
Sauchuk has taken the training to decipher it all.
Her job is to educate the public. Her job, she said, is to make parents and their children safer.
But Sauchuk’s baby-saving days have come to an end.
Dr. Debra Fuchs Nadeau, director of prevention services at the Liberty office, has been paying Sauchuk’s salary with a grant funded by the National Traffic Safety Administration that’s funneled through the state’s Governor Traffic Safety Committee.
“The state’s dried up that federal funding,” Fuchs Nadeau said.
No funds, no Kathy.
And now, with a new state law that requires children up to age 7 travel in some sort of safety seat, there are potentially thousands of kids in Sullivan County riding in an unsafe condition.
But Sauchuk can’t do a thing about it.
She’s the county’s only certified technician for this program. The police who have done it in the past haven’t been able to pick up her slack.
“They have to do policework,” Fuchs Nadeau explained.
With money, BOCES could have Sauchuk installing car seats properly.
She could be teaching training programs for parents on properly strapping their children into their car.
She could be examining seats for wear and tear, checking their model numbers against an online database of recalled seats.
What many parents don’t know, Fuchs Nadeau said, is that car seats expire.
“If you have a car seat that’s been recalled or is 40 years old in your car, she destroys them,” Fuchs Nadeau said.
In turn, Sauchuk provides families with new, safe seats.
There are seats for low-income families who just can’t afford to buy the proper equipment to transport their children.
And there are seats, paid for by another grant Sauchuk found, that go to parents whose seats she deems unsafe or match up with the recall list.
She doesn’t send any child home in a compromised position.
And she has success stories that have made the program worth all the work.
One mother called after a serious rollover in Monticello.
Her child was safely buckled in because of tips she learned from Sauchuk.
The baby survived, she said, because of what she’d learned.
That’s why Fuchs Nadeau grabs any spare funds she can lay her hands on to bring Sauchuk into the office for car seat inspections and training sessions.
“And sometimes, I just come in and do it because someone needs a seat,” Sauchuk admitted.
Forty-four people needed seats this year alone, and that’s down from her usual number because the funding hasn’t been available to run the full program.There’s a 30-person waiting list right now for car seats.
And Sauchuk’s other duties – everything from bicycle safety programs to inexperienced driver training – have fallen by the wayside.
Right now, Fuchs Nadeau is looking for help to get things going again.
Of a grant that usually averaged $35,000 a year, Sauchuk’s portion was between $20,000 and $26,000.
“If I can even get $5,000 a year, I can do something,” Fuchs Nadeau said. “It’s not a million-dollar program.”
So far, State Farm and Allstate Insurance have both said no, and Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther’s office has yet to find any funding.
“We’ve explored every avenue because we do think this is an important program,” Fuchs Nadeau explained. “We’ll support her however we can; unfortunately, I can’t support someone’s salary without the money.
“We need anything to keep it going,” she continued. “It’s like apple pie – it’s wonderful.”
Turning to Sauchuk, she added, “you’re doing great things for the community.”
For information on helping, call Dr. Debra Fuchs Nadeau at 295-4036.

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