It’s National Teens Don’t Text and Drive Week

Nov. 17-23 is National Teens Don’t Text and Drive Week, and here’s a press release from the Safe Kids Missoula Coalition:

Top Tips to Keep Kids Safe during National Teens Don’t Text and Drive Week: November 17-23, 2014 from Safe Kids Missoula Coalition led by Community Medical Center Foundation. Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the U.S.—these tips can help keep your teen safe behind the wheel!

Safe Kids Missoula recommends the following top driving safety tips.

1. Take action against distraction. Teach kids to put cell phones and other distractions in the back seat or out of sight until their final destination.

2. Think Ahead. Text before you get behind the wheel, plan your routes ahead of time.

3. Remember the risks. Consider the dangers of taking your eyes off the road, even for a few seconds. Avoid reading text messages; it’s as dangerous as sending a text message.

4. Let your actions speak as loud as your words. Set a good example for kids by putting devices down when you’re driving. If parents put devices down, kids are more likely to do the same.

5. Talk to your teens about how to be safe while driving. Have discussions about how to be safe while driving, including avoiding distractions such as texting, reading, reaching for electronic devices, eating, drinking and applying make-up.

6. Educate about local laws. Explain local laws to your teen and help them understand the importance of following these laws.


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Missoula’s Birth Center among organizations recognized for shaken baby prevention

The Period of PURPLE Crying program is an evidence-based prevention program focused on the fact that babies cry. This month – National Child Abuse Prevention Month – it’s being recognized as an important part of preventing the physical abuse of infants.

Specifically, the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome recognized our humble state “for its efforts to prevent shaken baby syndrome/abusive head trauma.” The official recognition came earlier this week at the statewide Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect Conference, which was held in Missoula this year.

There, NCSBS lauded the efforts of Montana groups to educate key people – hospital staff, agencies and parents – about normal infant crying patterns. The Birth Center in Missoula is one of 20 groups in Montana that use the PURPLE program.

Healthy Mother Healthy Babies-Montana is another, and in a news release that went out earlier this week, executive director Synness had this to say:

“To date, PURPLE MT has partnered with 20 out of 29 birthing hospitals and clinics across Montana to deliver the Period of PURPLE Crying program to over 7,100 new parents. We believe that the education and materials provided through the Period of PURPLE Crying program will make a profound difference in the lives of Montana families and will provide parents and families with the information, support and the tools they need to provide the healthiest and safest start for their baby.”

Julie Price, International Program Director for the PURPLE program at the NCSBS, added: “It is such a privilege and pleasure to work with these organizations and professionals in Montana. The NCSBS recognizes how much collaboration it takes to implement this program in hospitals, to reinforce key messages in the community, and also to create a cultural change with public education campaigns. It takes a lot to sustain a statewide prevention program, and we greatly appreciate everything they do.”

According to the release, “SBS/AHT is a form of child abuse caused by the violent shaking of a baby or small child, usually by an adult frustrated by the baby’s crying. The Period of PURPLE Crying aims to educate parents about the normality of early increased crying during the first months of a baby’s life, and the associated frustration. The program also seeks to teach parents techniques to soothe a baby, and healthy ways to cope with the crying when cry bouts cannot be soothed.

“For more information about the Period of PURPLE Crying program, please visit”


Missoula health expert knows how to keep kids safe during holidays

A Health column in yesterday’s Missoulian by Community Medical Center’s women’s and children’s services director Kim McKearnan included a list of ways for those of us with children underfoot to keep them safe during the holidays. It also provided a link to more safety information and checklists via

Here’s a condensed run-down of McKearnan’s list. Check out the column itself for the full version.

• Ensure that all electrical cords are in good condition and out of walking paths around your home (including not placing them under rugs).

• Be mindful of hot drinks.

• Candles should be kept a minimum of 3 feet away from anything that can burn, monitored at all times and out of reach of children and pets. Battery-powered candles can be a safe alternative.

• Hosting a house full of guests can lead to decreased supervision of children. Have adult guests take turns watching children, hire a trusted baby-sitter during holiday parties and make safe play rules clear to the children in your home.

• Exercise caution when cooking holiday meals. Keep children a safe distance from the oven at all times and take time to teach them kitchen safety.

• Provide a designated spot for your guests to stow potentially unsafe items.

• Carefully read the labels of the toys and gifts you purchase for children before wrapping them to be sure that they are age-appropriate and safe. When giving an older sibling a gift that could be harmful to their younger sibling (for example, small parts that a younger child could choke on), be sure to remind the child to keep the toy in a place that is out of reach for their little brother or sister.

• Dress your children warmly head to toe. It is strongly recommended that children wear helmets when sledding, snowmobiling, skiing or snowboarding to prevent head injuries resulting from falls. Adult supervision is also recommended.

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Halloween Safety tips from the Montana Red Cross

Happy Halloween! Here are the pumpkins my kids carved practically all on their own. Willow, in fact, kept her design a surprise until she was done. Notice the little pumpkin cutout on the bottom left-hand side of hers? Landon’s is the pumpkin on the right – you can’t see them in this picture, but there are x-shaped slashes all over it. Truly spooky!

Before you head out for tricks or treats this evening, here’s one last list of Halloween safety tips. These come courtesy of the American Red Cross of Montana.

“Halloween’s greatest hazards aren’t vampires and villains, but falls, costume mishaps and traffic accidents,” says Montana Red Cross CEO Rod Kopp. “By following a few safety tips, you can make this a fun and safe Halloween.”


  • Make sure trick-or-treaters are wearing flame-resistant costumes.
  • Plan the trick-or-treat route and make sure adults know where children are going. A parent or responsible adult should accompany young children as they make their way around the neighborhood.
  • Make sure the trick-or-treaters have a flashlight. Add reflective tape to costumes and trick-or-treat bags. Have everyone wear light-colored clothing in order to be seen.
  • Visit only the homes that have a porch light on. Accept treats at the door – never go inside.
  • Instead of masks, which can cover the eyes and make it hard to see, consider using face paint.
  • Walk only on the sidewalks, not in the street. If no sidewalk is available, walk at the edge of the roadway, facing traffic. Look both ways before crossing the street and cross only at the corner. Don’t cut across yards or use alleys. Don’t cross between parked cars.
  • Be cautious around pets and any other animals.


If someone is welcoming trick-or-treaters at their home, they should make sure an outdoor light is on. Other safety steps include:

  • Sweep leaves from the sidewalks and steps.
  • Clear the porch or front yard of any obstacles that a child could trip over.
  • Restrain any household pets.
  • Use a glow stick instead of a candle in the jack-o-lantern to avoid a fire hazard. 


People can download the free American Red Cross First Aid App, which puts expert advice for everyday emergencies at the user’s fingertips. Features of the app include:

  • Step-by-step instructions on how to handle the most common first aid situations;
  • Videos and animations that  make the skills easy to learn;
  • Safety and preparedness tips; and
  • Quizzes that users can take to earn badges which they can share with their friends on social media.

All Red Cross apps are available in the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store (search for American Red Cross) or on the Red Cross website:

About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or visit us on Twitter at @MontanaRedCross.



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Halloween decorations don’t have to be scary – if they’re safe

Hey, did you know Halloween is coming up? If not, then you don’t have kids. Mine remind me how many days are left every, oh, three minutes or so.

Needless to say, we’ve got our decorations up already. Giant hairy black spider? Check. Foam grave markers? Check. Home-made pumpkins and witches and cats on fenceposts? Check, check and check.

Since I’m so – ahem – frugal, every year for the past five years we’ve been re-using the same stuff that’s supposed to look like spider webs when you stretch it out. Only it’s long since lost its stretch, and is now laying artfully in clumps around the front yard – like this:

Hey, Halloween decorations aren’t suppose to look pretty.

I was reminded by the National Fire Protection Association today that they are, however, supposed to be safe when the NFPA sent out a scary warning for parents to make sure Halloween costumes and decorations don’t accidentally catch fire.

That’s because candles alone were the cause of more than 11,600 house fires from 2006-2010, resulting in 126 deaths and nearly 1,000 injuries, according to NFPA.

To help prevent tragedies like that from happening, the NFPA provided this timely list of Halloween safety tips:

    • When choosing a costume, stay away from billowing or long trailing fabric. If you are making your own costume, choose material that won’t easily ignite if it comes into contact with heat or flame. If your child is wearing a mask, make sure the eye holes are large enough so they can see out.
    • Provide children with flashlights to carry for lighting or glow sticks as part of their costume.
    • Dried flowers, cornstalks, and crepe paper are highly flammable. Keep these and other decorations well away from all open flames and heat sources, including light bulbs and heaters.
    • It is safest to use a flashlight or battery-operated candles in a jack-o-lantern. If you use a real candle, use extreme caution. Make sure children are watched at all times when candles are lit. When lighting candles inside jack-o-lanterns, use long fireplace-style matches or a utility lighter. Be sure to place lit pumpkins well away from anything that can burn and far away from trick-or-treaters, doorsteps, walkways, and yards.
    • If you choose to use candle decorations, make sure to keep them well attended at all times.
    • Remember to keep exits clear of decorations, so nothing blocks escape routes.
    • Tell children to stay away from open flames. Be sure they know how to stop, drop and roll if their clothing catches fire. (Have them practice stopping immediately, dropping to the ground, covering their face with hands, and rolling over and over to put the flames out.)
    • Use flashlights as alternatives to candles or torch lights when decorating walkways and yards. They are much safer for trick-or-treaters, whose costumes may brush against the lighting.

That’s for the grown-ups. For the kids, the NFPA has a Sparky Be Safe Halloween Coloring Sheet.

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Workshop on child predator prevention starts Thursday

There’s lots of info in the paper today about the workshop on how to spot – and stop – child predators. The two-day workshop starts tomorrow, Thursday, at 5 p.m. and is free and open to the public. It’s a joint forum organized by Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock, the Flathead County Children’s Advocacy Center and the Missoula County Attorney’s Office.

The three are teaming up to help teach adults how to protect children from child molesters – not just parents, but teachers and other child care workers as well.

The two-and-a-half-hour training session will include a presentation by the co-director of the Center for Behavioral Intervention in Beaverton, Oregon, Cory Jewell, as well as a talk on Internet crimes against children by Assistant U.S. Attorney Cyndee Peterson.

Interested? It’s on the sixth floor of the Garlington, Lohn and Robinson Building, at 350 Ryman Street. Please note that registration IS required, and you can register by contacting Kimberly Dudik via email at

Dudik is also one of the authors of a guest column in today’s Missoulian, which you can read here.

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Teen pregnancy, foster care, and Child and Family Services

Lately I’m seeing a lot of opinions in the Missoulian having to do with mom stuff. I don’t know if it’s just the month of May being the month that’s home to Mother’s Day or what, but I’m liking it.

I do know that May is Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month – and I know this thanks to a letter to the editor from the Montana Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition. That letter stated that “Each day in Montana, approximately three teens give birth” and went on to describe the challenges faces by these teen parents. It ended with a call to action: ” If parents, youth, schools, businesses, faith leaders and health care providers join together to address teen pregnancy, we can make a difference!”

Speaking of calls to action, the new documentary “From Place to Place,” produced by Missoula’s Matt Anderson, is already making huge waves – and it hasn’t even screened in Montana yet. The documentary follows the lives of two Missoula youth who age out of the foster care system – without a family.

These youth have become advocates for change; one spoke at a Montana child welfare conference earlier this month, and I understand they have spoken to other leaders in the national system as well. You can read Anderson’s guest column in the Missoulian here. And you can watch “From Place to Place” at its first Montana screening at the Wilma Theatre a week from today, on Thursday, June 2, at 7 p.m.

And finally, in her guest column last week, Child and Family Services Division administrator Shirley K. Brown also had some important information to share – including information about how you can help protect Montana’s abused and neglected children:

In Montana, 903 children were removed from their homes because of child abuse or neglect from July 1, 2009, through June 30, 2010. The type of abuse experienced by these children includes physical neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and medical neglect.

Montana’s children are our future – children need a safe, stable family environment. Each individual in Montana can protect children who are being abused or neglected by reporting suspected abuse or neglect. To report concerns about a child’s safety, call 1-866-820-5437 (1-866-820-KIDS). Another way to help is by learning more about becoming a licensed foster parent. To learn about becoming a foster parent, call 1-866-939-7837 (1-866-9FOSTER) or email

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Missoula parents should be aware of asbestos exposure

Following is a guest post by Krista Peterson, a recent college graduate from the University of Central Florida, health and safety advocate, and aspiring writer. She tells me she enjoys writing “to help encourage others to live the healthiest and most eco-friendly lifestyles possible.”

Although she does not live in Missoula, this piece is geared specifically toward Missoula parents:
Read the rest of this entry »

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Eighth-grade essay contest aimed at preventing cyber bullying

I am no longer surprised to see 5- and 6-year-olds with their own personal cell phones. I am no longer shocked that my own daughter, at the tender age of 6, knows how to navigate the PBS Kids website on her own or order a movie through Netflix.

I am, however, appalled at some of the stories about cyber bullying coming out of the national news these days. It’s become a huge, huge deal. Yesterday, as a matter of fact, the White House hosted a conference on cyber bullying prevention.

In Montana, we are turning to the kids themselves for ideas on how to stop cyber bullies. The Montana Police Protective Association and the Montana Department of Justice are sponsoring an essay contest for eight graders, while the goal being to solicit solutions to the cyber bullying problem.

Here are the details, via the Montana Attorney General’s Office:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Kids and guns at school in the news

We all remember the recent incident – it was just after Thanksgiving – in which a Columbia Falls teen faced suspension for bringing her hunting rifle to school in the trunk of her car.

Columbia Falls High School student Demari DeReu, upon learning that the school was conducting a “sweep” through the parking lot, volunteered the information that she had stored the rifle in the trunk following a Thanksgiving weekend hunting trip. She was suspended, but allowed to return to school following a open hearing before the board of trustees.

Then, in Great Falls, a C.M. Russell High School student was suspended for bringing a gun to school. It too was stored in the teenager’s car, but in this case it was found following a report of an off-campus “altercation.” Following a closed-door hearing, the student was expelled.

Now, in the most recent case that I’m aware of, two eighth-graders in Florence have been suspended over a BB gun found at Florence-Carlton Middle School. One of the boys brought the plastic Airsoft to school in his backpack, apparently intending to move it from his grandmother’s house back to his own house. The second boy found the unloaded toy gun in the other boy’s backpack at the end of the day.

Their full punishment is yet to be determined, but was arrived at in a close-door hearing that decided the boys will not be expelled.

I wonder if stuff like this happens as often in other states.

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