As we celebrate our 20th anniversary we find ourselves reflecting back upon the journey that has brought us to where we are today while looking with clear eyes and full hearts into the future. In 1998 Cribs for Kids was born from a deep desire to find a practical solution to the problem of babies dying while sleeping in unsafe environments. This grassroots organization has come a long way in helping babies sleep safe but our work is ongoing and we approach our third decade ready to double down on our objectives.
Before Cribs for Kids, we were SIDS of Pennsylvania. We had spent years working diligently to help find out what was taking our babies in their sleep. Raising money for research while comforting grieving parents, we became more than determined to succeed. Back then, in the 1990s, babies were dying at an alarming rate. Approximately 10,000 babies would succumb to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome every year. The SIDS community was working frantically toward discovering the cause and we were barely keeping our heads above water.
A break came in 1992 in the form of the Back to Sleep Campaign. While attending the International SIDS Conference in Sydney, Australia, our founder Judy Bannon learned of a recent breakthrough. The Australian SIDS Alliance had spent years researching why Australia, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand suffered the highest rate of SIDS in the world while Japan was experiencing the lowest instances. It was decided that the critical difference was the way in which the Japanese laid their babies down to sleep. They placed babies on their backs on tatami mats while babies in Australia, the UK, and New Zealand were being put to sleep on their stomachs on sheepskin bedding. The simple act of taking a page from Japanese culture and promoting this change throughout these nations helped them to slash SIDS rates by 50%.
By 1994, the United States began to follow suit and the nature of our mission turned to outreach and awareness. We needed to spread the Back to Sleep message far and wide. Although the discovery was a Godsend and helped us here at home achieve the desired 50% decline in deaths, we were still dealing with parents that were suffering the unimaginable tragedy of losing their baby to sudden unexplained infant death while sleeping. Any amount of progress made seemed like a glass half full situation when promising lives were still being inexplicably lost and young parents, once so hopeful and excited, were still being left broken.
Upon conducting our own research within the organization we discovered that the majority of the babies that were still dying were perhaps on their back, but none were in a crib. They were found in the parents’ beds or napping on an overstuffed chair. If they were found in a crib, it was laden with blankets, bumpers and plush toys. We also found that the overwhelming majority of these babies were dying in low-income homes, born to families that could not afford a crib. Once again our goal post shifted and Cribs for Kids was launched from the practical need to provide safe sleep environments to every baby, regardless of their circumstances.
Fast forward to today, 20 years later. Our grassroots have sprouted a vast forest of redwood trees. Cribs for Kids has acquired over 1,100 partners nationally. Our dedicated, mission-driven staff has developed amazing programming geared toward spreading awareness and, through our network of partners, we have provided over 500,000 cribs to families in need. All of the following programs are available to our partners at no cost. More importantly, the directors of these programs are available to our partners to help them successfully launch these programs in their local communities:
National Safe Sleep Hospital Certification Program – Awarding recognition to hospitals that demonstrate a commitment to community leadership for best practices and education in infant sleep safety.
Managed Care Organization Prenatal Incentive Program – Helping MCOs encourage pregnant women to attend all recommended prenatal care visits which will provide them with safe sleep education as well as additional resources that can improve the health of their babies.
National Public Safety Initiative – Training law enforcement agencies and first-responders to expand their community policing policies to provide safe sleep education and free portable cribs to families in need.
“There will come a time when you believe that everything is finished.
That will be the beginning”
Still, over 3,500 babies died last year while sleeping. A quote by Louis L’Amour comes to mind, “There will come a time when you believe that everything is finished. That will be the beginning”. We are now at the beginning, the beginning of our efforts to eradicate sudden unexplained infant deaths while sleeping. Armed with all of the resources we have built and tools that we have gathered, we approach this final battle. The work of placing at risk babies into safe sleep environments will never cease. We need to distribute more cribs. The work of changing the culture surrounding infant sleep habits continues. We need to work harder to educate and raise awareness. With the completion of our online Safe Sleep Academy, an online resource for educating everyone from parents to caregivers to professionals, we are prepared to create an army of Safe Sleep Ambassadors that will help us create a level of awareness that will change our culture.
We encourage you to follow our blog to learn more about our programming efforts, get to know our staff and partners, be the first to hear about our events and discover ways to keep the babies in your life as safe as they can possibly be. Most importantly, follow along to learn ways in which you can help us reach our goal of spreading awareness far and wide to end these tragedies. As you can see, our tagline – Helping every baby sleep safer certainly applies. But now, as we come closer and closer to realizing our ultimate goal, it is time to ask for your help spreading our message.
It takes a village.
To learn more about the story of how Cribs for Kids came to be – the struggles and triumphs, the dedication and hustle, the story of Cribs for Kids’ quest to help every baby sleep safer, pick up a copy of our book, Five Ladies and a Forklift!
Become a Cribs for Kids Partner – Help every baby in your community sleep safely.
Become a Cribs for Kids Valued Volunteer – Learn ways in which you can help us reach our goals.