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Making Waves: Keeping Community Members Safe

Jul 14, 2021 03:00PM ● By ANN MARIE O’PHELAN


Children are full of wonderment and curiosity; unfortunately, what may come with that is unintentional injuries such as falls, burns, poisoning, drowning, choking and car accidents. These types of injuries are the number-one cause of death in children in the United States.  

Although keeping a watchful eye on children at all times is the best course, there are times when young ones may wander away, or get into something, and then it may be too late. Safe Kids Southwest Florida is dedicated to helping protect children from unintentional injuries. 

The group is affiliated with a larger nonprofit, Safe Kids Worldwide, “working to help families and communities keep kids safe from injuries,” according to its website. This organization works with 400 coalitions in the United States and more than 30 countries to help reduce childhood incidents.   

Safe Kids Southwest Florida offers free classes, many of which are virtual. It hosts child-passenger safety technician courses for firefighters, law enforcement, nurses and others. (Class size is limited.) Other free classes include two-hour car-seat instruction, after which caregivers who complete the course can receive a free car seat.  

The group also offers a virtual safe sleep class. “The goal of this program is to decrease the number of infant deaths pertaining to unsafe sleep practices,” explains Sally Kreuscher, Safe Kids coordinator. This class covers safe sleep principles for newborns and infants, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and Shaken Baby Syndrome, and it provides updated best practices for using cribs and pacifiers.   

Additionally, Safe Kids performs in-person car-seat inspections. The group has also installed life-jacket loaner stations throughout Southwest Florida, where families can borrow a life jacket and return it when they are done using it. Every year, the group participates in a heatstroke press conference on the dangers of leaving children in hot cars. Plus, Safe Kids representatives go to schools, summer camp and youth camps to provide education on ATV safety using the Safety Sam robot, the first of its kind in Florida.   

Safe Kids has recently found a way to partner with coalition members and organizations to distribute its vital information. “Families drive through and pick up bags of information on different topics,” explains Kreuscher.  



Find tip sheets on various safety topics at or

Check the Facebook page for more information and events:



The number of older Americans who are victims of elder abuse, neglect or exploitation is estimated at five million—or one in ten. Plus, as many as 23.5 percent of cases go unreported as many victims are reluctant to report abuse because of shame or embarrassment. The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) Adult Protective Services is dedicated to protecting vulnerable adults from abuse, neglect, exploitation or self-neglect and enabling adults with disabilities to remain in the community. 

“Far too often, elder abuse is a silent problem robbing seniors of enjoying their golden years to the fullest,” says Natalie Harrell, communications director for the SunCoast Region of 

Elder abuse can be physical, sexual, psychological or emotional; however, it can also be the result of neglect, such as failure to provide a senior with adequate food, shelter, care or protection. “Neglect is sometimes committed by someone an elderly person trusts or depends on, such as a family member, friend or caregiver,” says Harrell. Also concerning is the financial exploitation of a senior’s funds or assets. 

The elderly population is growing, so it’s imperative to pay close attention this issue. “We encourage all Floridians to get involved in a local effort to raise awareness about elder abuse and neglect in their community,” explains Harrell. 



  • Bruises, broken bones, burns or other physical indicators 

  • Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities or unusual depression 

  • Sudden changes in financial situation 

  • Unattended medical needs or unusual weight loss 



If you suspect an elder is being abused, neglected or exploited, report it immediately. Reports can be made anonymously and are investigated confidentially by the Florida DCF’s Adult Protective Services program. 

  • Florida Abuse Hotline: 1-800-96-ABUSE/1-800-962-2873  



DCF Headquarters 
2415 North Monroe Street, Suite 400, Tallahassee 

Safe Kids Southwest Florida 
9981 S. Healthpark Drive, 
Fort Myers