Fathers everywhere want to keep their children safe. Whether it is taking a sick child to the doctor, buckling a squirming baby into a car seat, or “hunting” for monsters under the bed, Dads work hard to protect their children.
This work is making a difference. Over the last generation, the world has become a much safer place for babies. Rates of childhood injury and illness have plummeted, everywhere. In fact, children born today are much safer than their parents were; they are less likely to be harmed by a car crash, malnutrition, or polio than those born just a generation ago. Even with this progress, too many young lives are still lost to injury and illness, so the need for expanding our efforts is clear.
This Father’s Day, the Juvenile Products Manufacturing Association (JPMA) and the United Nations Foundation (UN Foundation) are celebrating this progress and finding new ways to shape a safer world for children. Too many families still lack access to simple, proven tools or information that can keep their children safe. The UN Foundation is partnering with JPMA Cares, an industry foundation dedicated to improving outcomes for all babies and children. The two organizations are developing a new initiative that will engage consumers and companies to raise funds for programs that protect the health of babies around the world.
Today, Joe Colella, JPMA’s Director of Child Passenger Safety and UN Foundation’s Mike Beard discuss this collaboration, their shared mission to make the world safer for children, the progress they are making, and the joys of new parent and grandparenthood.
Happy Father’s Day to both of you. Before we talk about the new collaboration, can you tell me a bit about your work and what drew you to it?
Joseph Colella: I’ve been a child passenger safety advocate for 27 years. I got into child passenger safety advocacy the hard way after my sister and three of her kids were in a crash.
A lot of what I do is help people to choose the right product for their child and educate parents on how to use it safely. I also work with car seat designers and manufacturers on their consumer education and outreach, and with policy makers to be sure regulations reflect the safest practices.
Michael Beard: Like Joe, I am an advocate, and my work is focused on child health outside the U.S. I focus on making sure families have the information and tools they need to protect their children from illness. I help ensure they have access to clean water, nutrition, handwashing, vaccines, etc.
And you both have new additions to your family – how has that been?
MB: Edith Francis Beard was born last March, just as COVID-19 was starting to spread in the US. COVID parenting has been a whole new world. I can’t separate the two. I don’t know a different way to raise a newborn other than for everybody to wash their food before they come into the house.
JC: I became a grandfather a few months ago when Evelyn Mae Colella – Eevee – was born. I’ve heard for years that grandparenting is the best. And it’s almost like a pure joy. My son Joey gets to deal with keeping social distance and nutrition and eventually education, behavior, all of that. All I need to do is enjoy her, appreciate her, and watch her grow.
MB: Parenting is harder than I expected and there were more decisions to make in those early days, because of COVID. But also, there actually is a resilience, like when you hit that level of tired that you did not know existed. It’s not quite as scary as some make it out to be because you find the way, you figure it out.
JC: Kids are resilient. Parents are resilient. I’ve got four sons, so and they’re all grown now. There’s no owner’s manual for a kid. When you get that child, you have to kind of feel your way. That is why information and education are crucial.
How do you think parenting has changed since you raised your sons?
JC: A lot has changed. I’ll focus on car seats. When I was a new dad and advocate in the 90’s, more than 1800 children younger than 10 years of age were killed on roadways in the U.S. each year. And now, even though more people are driving more miles, we cut that number by more than half. The reason we’re seeing that is because more educational resources exist and are more accessible to parents. In 1994, when I started my advocacy, there was no such thing as a child passenger safety technician. And it makes me happy to think that I contributed to the existence of those resources in my early years because I was on the front lines.
So, things have improved?
JC: Yes, there are fewer deaths and injuries, but there are still too many. And new problems emerge. For example, there were more traffic fatalities in 2020 than in 2019 even though there were fewer drivers on the road.
MB: Things have improved for child health as well. It wasn’t too long ago, that about 1000 children worldwide every day were paralyzed by the polio virus. That number has decreased more than 99 percent in less than forty years. We keep working hard to get that number to zero, but that is an astounding change.
So, how does a partnership between JPMA Cares and the UN Foundation help continue to ensure kids, like Eevee and Edith, are safe?
MB: The pandemic was a shared experience of loss and not feeling safe. I think it is bound to affect people. It felt like the things we regularly do to protect our children, like the right car seats or immunizations, were no longer enough. People can now empathize with the loss of that feeling when parents don’t have those options or the right resources.
There is a solidarity in parenthood. I am excited about an effort that will support proven tools that protect children and keep them safe.
JC: I was one of the first instructors that trained car seat technicians. I felt that as a dad and now I feel it again as a grandpa, that my job is to make the world a better place for the next generation.
Safety is what JPMA and UNF are always working for. At our core, both organizations are investing in and educating people on proven solutions and ensure families have access to all the right resources and tools – like car seats and vaccines, and nutrition.