Welcome to Chicago North Shore Moms’ Local Nonprofit Spotlight Series! There’s so much good happening in our communities and that’s why we’d like to highlight a local but mighty nonprofit dedicated to helping improve the safety of our young ones, Kids in Danger or KID. KID’s mission is KID’s mission is to save lives by enhancing transparency and accountability through safer product development, better education and stronger advocacy for children. In this interview with KID’s Executive Director, Nancy Cowles chats about the 22-year-old nonprofit’s legacy, the common ways accidental injury occurs and measures that you and your family can keep your little ones safe.
Please introduce yourself, the interviewee. Where did you grow up, where do you live, how many children, ages, your title at the nonprofit?
My name is Nancy Cowles. I grew up all over in an Air Force family. I’ve lived in the Chicago area for over forty years – currently in Oak Park. I have three grown children and one adorable 20-month-old grandson. I’m the executive director of Kids In Danger.
When was Kids In Danger (KID) established?
Kids In Danger or KID was founded in 1998 by two University of Chicago professors whose son Danny was killed in a recalled – and very dangerous – portable crib at his childcare home in Chicago. No one knew the crib had already killed four babies or that it was recalled – not even the state inspector who visited the childcare just days earlier.
What is the nonprofit’s mission?
KID is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting children by fighting for product safety. KID’s mission is to save lives by enhancing transparency and accountability through safer product development, better education and stronger advocacy for children. We fulfill our mission by reaching out to caregivers to spread safety awareness and recall information, serving as a watchdog on regulatory agencies and manufacturers, and working with designers and engineers to make safety a top priority.
Who does it serve?
KID primarily serves parents, professional child care givers, pediatricians, and DCFS employees. Though our online presence reaches many more, through our workshops and outreach events, we distributed over 6,400 pieces of educational material last year including our children’s product safety guide, safe sleep checklist, and brochures in English and Spanish.
What was the inspiration behind the formation of your business or nonprofit?
Danny’s parents wanted to alert other families and make standards stronger to keep other families from suffering as they had. It wasn’t until they started researching that they realized there were no requirements that manufacturers test products for safety before they are sold and used in our homes or child care. KID has changed that now, but there is still more to do.
How did you personally get involved in this nonprofit?
My college degree was in education, but I never ended up in a classroom – I started as a VISTA volunteer in Chicago after college, working to help advocate with senior citizens on safety, health and housing issues. I’ve always been an advocate. When I met Linda Ginzel, Danny’s mom, I knew I could help her reach her goal and I’ve been at KID since 2001.
Many of our readers have really little ones at home still. As the expert, what are measures your organization would like our moms to know to help keep their kids safe?
- Follow the ABCs of safe sleep: Alone, on their Back, and in a Crib, play yard, or bassinet that meets the federal standard. So no bumper pads, inclined sleepers, pillows, blankets etc.
- Sign up for the CPSC’s recall alerts to get emails about recalled children’s products.
- Anchor your furniture and TVs to prevent tip-overs. One child dies every 11 days from a tip-over incident. Learn how to anchor at AnchorIt.gov.
- According to the CPSC, a child is sent to the emergency department due to falling furniture every 37 minutes, and one child dies every 11 days. Anchor your dressers to the wall with wall anchor mechanism. They can be purchased at any hardware store or online.
- Report tip-over incidents to gov. As a result of public reporting the STURDY Act passed in the U.S. House in a bipartisan vote in September 2019, and is now in the Senate.
Great advice, thank you! What are a few concrete accomplishments that KID has led to – some wins in the field of product safety that has a direct correlation to KID?
We have several accomplishments:
In 1999, KID introduced and helped pass the Illinois Children’s Product Safety Act, ensuring that recalled children’s products could not be sold in Illinois or used in child care. It was updated in 2005 to require companies to do more to reach consumers who may have a recalled product.
In 2008, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act passed Congress and was signed by the President. A portion of the law carries Danny’s name and requires strong standards and independent testing for durable infant and toddler products. This led to the world’s strongest crib standard and safer cribs in child care and homes.
KID has trained thousands of child care providers on product safety as well as state inspectors – giving them the tools they need to keep all children in child care safe from dangerous products.
What’s on the horizon with KID? Any new initiatives?
KID has been looking to use emerging technology and big data to reach even more parents and caregivers with our life-saving information. We are currently working to develop a way for parents to find out about product injury data and information on recalled products while they’re shopping online. We’re also looking to expand our design safety program to get product safety information in to the hands of entrepreneurs and children’s product innovators so they take safety into consideration when developing new products for children.
Who would you like to thank for making the formation and success of this nonprofit possible and why?
Here at KID we work closely with parents and grandparents of children who have been injured, or in the worst cases, died, from unsafe products. Since our founding, working with Danny’s parents, and others, is a privilege and honor. We share many of their children’s stories in our Family Voices page on our website: www.kidsindanger.org/family-voices. Their stories are used to push for stronger standards for children’s products to prevent other families from enduring similar tragedies. Parent advocates who have spoken out about dangerous children’s products has helped reform the product safety arena and their work is saving lives.
How do our readers contribute or volunteer their time?
KID would not be able to do the live-saving work we do without the support of our donors. We are funded in large part by small donors from our local community. You can support KID at www.kidsindanger.org. We’re also looking for volunteers to help at our special events, or volunteering in the office. You can contact us through our website for volunteer opportunities. And our annual fundraising gala “KID Best Friend Award Night” is planned for Fall 2020 at the beautiful Chicago Cultural Center. Enjoy tastings from great Chicago chefs and restaurants, live auction and raffle, and more, while celebrating children’s product safety champions. Learn more about our event at www.kidsindanger.org/events.