GREENFIELD — As the mother of a pair of 20-somethings, Patricia Sexton is no stranger to the demands of parenthood.
But with her youngest child, Loretta, who’s 7, Sexton has been shocked by how much has changed from when she raised her older kids.
That led her on Saturday to the Child Safety and Wellness Fair, an inaugural event coordinated by Hancock Regional Hospital, the Department of Child Services and the Children’s Bureau. Designed for both parents and children, organizers said the goal of the event is to connect families with the abundance of local resources that are available to all but known by few.
“Things are evolving constantly, and it just seems like there’s always something new to learn,” said Sexton, one of hundreds of parents who attended.
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Amanda Resler, director of the local Department of Child Services office, said she wants parents to realize how much support is available in their community. Often, families her department works with don’t know about the resources or how to take advantage of them, she said.
“There are a lot of things parents have to juggle, so it helps to make sure they understand what to look for,” she said.
Families wandered from booth to booth at the free event, which ran for three hours at the Hancock Wellness Center. More than 30 organizations had representatives at the fair to lend their expertise on a variety of topics, such as safe sleep practices and early childhood literacy.
Representatives handed out pamphlets, spoke with parents and encouraged them to take part in interactive exhibits aimed at teaching them how to keep their children safe.
Adam Wilhelm, a nurse at Hancock Regional Hospital, came out to teach parents and children how to do CPR. Though many people have some basic understanding of CPR, few feel confident enough to actually use the skills in the case of an emergency, Wilhelm said.
“There’s a lot of confusion out there about the best practices for using CPR,” he said. “Many people might even be remiss to do CPR if a situation ever arises because they’re worried they might do something wrong.”
Through hands-on demonstrations, Wilhelm taught families how to do hands-only CPR, a relatively new technique that’s simpler to learn than other methods but still effective in saving lives.
Hands-only CPR involves no mouth-to-mouth contact — unlike traditional techniques — and is effective for the first few minutes someone is in cardiac arrest, Wilhelm said.
By teaching parents and children in person, they’re more likely to remember how to perform the skills if an emergency ever arises, he said.
“These are motor skills, so it’s much better to have people actually practice them,” he said. “You have to build that muscle memory for it to be effective.”
Representatives from Hancock County Public Library promoted the variety of programs available to families. Programming is available for children and teens.
“It’s never too early to get kids into the library,” said Sara Cloyd, a library assistant. “So the sooner we can teach those early child literacy skills, the better.”
Linda Garrity, community outreach educator at Hancock Regional Hospital, led families through a demonstration on how to properly use car safety seats. Though most parents know to use car seats, she said, many unknowingly use them incorrectly.
In the case of a car accident, that can mean the difference between life and death for a child.
“It’s rare that someone comes in and we see that they’re using everything 100 percent correctly,” she said. “A lot of people are surprised by just how challenging car seats can be, and each seat fits differently from vehicle to vehicle.”
Sexton said it sometimes can be overwhelming to hear everything she needs to be aware of as a parent, but it’s helpful to hear the information from an authoritative source.
“There’s a lot to learn, definitely,” she said. “But this is a good way to get (my daughter) involved in it all. It makes things easier for her and for me.”