Car Seat Safety with Secure Quest: Podcast Episode #109
Kristin talks with Jennifer Hoekstra, one of the owners of Secure Quest, about car seat safety for our babies and toddlers. You’ll be astonished at how many of us install our car seats incorrectly! You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Kristin: Welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas. I’m Kristin, co-owner, and I’m here today with Jennifer Hoekstra. She is co-owner of Secure Quest, LLC. Welcome, Jennifer!
Jennifer: Thanks for having me!
Kristin: Thanks so much for hopping on. And we would love to hear a bit about your own personal background, as well as about your new business.
Jennifer: Perfect! Well, I’m a mom of four kids. I love being a mom. They are extremely busy. I now have two high schoolers, a middle schooler, and an elementary kiddo. So we are in the mix of just about every stage of life except baby, which I’m not sad to be past that. I’m not going to lie.
Jennifer: But it was wonderful. My first two kids are only 15 months apart, so that was a good challenge at the early onset of motherhood — figuring out how to do this mom thing with two little ones at the same time. But we survived, and there’s hope out there. For those of you who may have more than one little one at a time, it does get better, I promise, and it’s pretty awesome.
Kristin: That’s great advice. Yes. It does get better and easier over the years, for sure.
Jennifer: Yeah. It sure does. I started out my life as a teacher, and I loved teaching. I loved presenting information to kids. I loved watching them catch on. And it was super powerful. And then my husband and I moved to the mission field for a few years, and again, I loved teaching people and really helping them grasp information. And then I transitioned into the world at the hospital, where I continued to teach. I taught families all about safety, about making sure their children were protected from all different types of preventable injuries, from car seat safety to bike safety to water safety to lawn mower safety to poison prevention — a little bit of everything, and it was, again, very powerful to share information with parents. And then, unfortunately, COVID hit, and the hospital had some hard decisions to make about programming and dollars and things that were just not able to be sustainable during a time of struggle. And our position at the hospital, being the car seat safety team as people knew us, was eliminated. And that was really hard, but it didn’t stop me from understanding the importance of providing information and education to parents. Therefore, I joined forced with my previous hospital partner and now current co-owner with me at Secure Quest, Kim Hernden. And together, the two of us have begun this amazing business called Secure Quest. And our goal is to help families keep their kids safe, primarily focusing on child passenger safety or car seat safety. We have so many years of experience between the two of us. We’ve been in the field of car seat safety for over 25 years combined, and we’ve seen a lot of different things throughout that 25 years, from parents who truly had never touched a car seat before their first baby was born to parents who have researched and studied and made themselves self-experts by all of the research they’ve done. But what we have noticed through all of our interactions with families, with all different backgrounds and pieces of information, is everyone loves to be reassured that they’re doing it right. And that’s really one of the most powerful things we can offer to a family is the assurance that when you speak to one of us as an expert, that we can say to you, you are doing it great. Or, we can say, hey, you gave it a great effort, but we have a few things that you could change to ultimately provide safer travel for your child. And we thought it was important to really branch out and start this company because there are many misconceptions in our community that you can just turn anywhere and find help with your car seats, but unfortunately that is not the case. I’m currently in West Michigan with you, and we are finding that there are very few places that are either, number 1, open for service for car seat safety help or, number 2, even have a certified person on staff. I think when you ask questions of people, whether they’re doctors, nursing, working at the family fair, or somebody who works in your child’s school, if you ask them, where do I go for help with my car seat, many people’s first response is, oh, you can go to the fire department. Or you can go to the police department. And unfortunately, that is not a true statement. What the statement should be is, oh, you can find someone certified and they can help you. Locally in Grand Rapids proper, there is not one single person certified to check car seats anymore. We have a few outlying people in different communities outside of Grand Rapids, so still in the greater Grand Rapids area. We have a couple of firefighters scattered through different areas around Grand Rapids, but it’s hard because they don’t have necessarily the man power to do their primary job and still take families in. So we knew that there was a deep need for experts in the field of car seats to be able to serve families who are looking for that information. And hence, Secure Quest was born.
Kristin: I love it! So fill us in a bit about some of the stats on families and their installation success with car seats.
Jennifer: It’s always a little bit enlightening and a little bit frightening when you hear statistics. So I’m going to put a little caveat. Remember, statistics take a look at the broad picture. Right? They really take into effect nationwide and how many people we’re talking about. So, statistically, across the nature, when you’re looking at the number of people who improperly or incorrectly install their car seat, that number hovers around 75% of people doing it wrong, and that number is taken from over 2 million car seats checked. We’re talking about a huge number. And that’s over 23 years of installation methods with an expert next to them. So we’re talking about people who are gathering information from a specific event or time when they met with an expert. They came; they did some tally marks and some informational gathering, and found out that that number was not very good. It gets worse locally. Over the past 12 years, I’ve been gathering data for all of the car seats that I’ve checked with my team, and we’ve checked over 8,000 car seats in the last 5 years, and over the last 12 years, we’re closer to 20,000 car seats. And we are finding that in the local area, we’re at a 92% misuse rate. And that’s really frightening, but there’s hope, because we can teach you. One family at a time; small group settings; however you take information in is how we want to provide it to you. And the reason that this number is so big is because there’s so many parts and pieces to a car seat safety installation. You have the putting the car seat in the car part, but you also have the putting the baby in the car seat part. And both of those pieces have to be done exactly right for that car seat to work the way it was designed and protect your child in the event of a crash. I think for me, one of the most common statements that I hear from families when I’m working with them is, oh, well, I did it this way with my first baby, or I did it this way when my niece was over, or my dad did it this way, or my brother. So people are learning from previous experiences or from other family members but not often are they having a reason to question the way they did things. Most of us don’t crash on a weekly basis and hope that the outcome is good. So when there’s not a factor, whether it’s a crash or an almost-avoidance of a crash or a just-miss, it doesn’t prompt us to think about, necessarily, how we have our child installed in the car or how our car seat’s installed in the vehicle. It’s just, well, it’s probably good enough. And we know that good enough usually isn’t good enough. It does have to be correct.
Kristin: Yes. And if someone has a car seat that they want to transfer to multiple cars, A, they should have different bases for each vehicle and bring those to get checked individually?
Jennifer: That’s a great idea because that is probably why car seats are so difficult, because you have so many combinations and factors that really change the way a car seat is installed in one car versus the other. You may have a relatively simple base that you want to install in a car, but you open the door of Dad’s care, and you realize, wow, this is really not a very big back seat. And then you open the back door of grandma’s car, and you say, well, don’t you have those hook things that I have?
Jennifer: And then you open the door of Mom’s car, and you’re like, well, this is pretty easy! But your questioning then is, why wasn’t it easy in the other car? And it is a really good idea either, A, to get all the cars checked and all the bases checked, or B, spend time on one primary vehicle feeling super, super confident, getting that one on one education, and then taking it back to your other vehicle, taking what you have learned, giving it your best shot, but then always kind of doing a follow up. And right now, we can do those virtually. We can do those in person. We are really wanting parents to have the confidence that they can do it. We believe in our ability to teach families. We believe that you will walk away confident and say, I think I could figure out the Camry, even though I didn’t bring it. But we would encourage you to text us a picture. How did you do? Shoot us a quick video. Show us, because we can give you that confidence then that it is correct.
Kristin: That’s great! So you mentioned virtual as an option. Tell us what Secure Quest is doing during COVID.
Jennifer: We are really trying to help families feel confident in not only knowing how to find us, being comfortable, being in the same space as us, or not being in the same space with us and learning virtually over the computer. So if you visit our website, we have an appointment calendar that you can book under the Personal Assistance tab, and you can choose whether you want that to be virtually or in person. We will come to you. We can meet at an agreed-upon location, or you can come to us. We don’t have a storefront, per se, but we have some meeting spaces where we have gathered permission to meet with families. And we then will make sure that we are using all of the proper protocol during COVID. We’ll wear mask. We can sanitize before and after. We will also wear gloves if a family is more comfortable that way. We want to make sure that everyone is safe in the time of helping and learning, but we also want you to be comfortable. So please know that we are very flexible, and we are willing to do what it takes to empower you to transport your children safely.
Kristin: That’s wonderful. And you did mention the website as far as how to contact and the online scheduling. The question we always get from clients is payment. What are the payment options, and is anything covered any, like, health savings or insurance?
Jennifer: You know, we would love for anybody who might be listening who has a way to get it covered by a health savings to jump on our website and let us know. We’ve been working really hard with some local insurance companies, trying to figure that out, but currently, there is not someone that feels that that’s an important service to pay for through insurances. So we accept Venmo payment on our website. We will take cash if that’s something that parents would prefer to do. We’ll take a check when we get to the space there. It is a pretty easy option right on our website to do Venmo, and there are instructions on how to set up a Venmo account if it’s not something that you’ve ever done before. When we started our company, I was still in the world of PayPal, which is like old people payment, you know —
Kristin: We still use PayPal!
Jennifer: — and we had to make the switch to Venmo because it was more conducive to our constituents. And working with our families, we want to make it as easy as possible. We also really encourage families to think about this as a gift. You as a pregnant mom may really value this experience for yourself and for your partner, but it is a great idea for a Christmas gift for your parents. You know, grandmas and grandpas who are going to transport children also need to learn how to do it correctly, even though they’ve had some experiences, lots of things have changed. Or a daycare provider. Have a nice, you know, thank you for watching our child gift, and offer them an opportunity to come and meet with us or have us come to their home so that we can show them, and then you can be confident that your child’s riding safely with everyone who’s traveling with them. A baby shower gift, too. It’s a great gift.
Kristin: Yeah, definitely. A baby shower gift or — yeah, anything — Christmas gifts, you know, Christmas coming up, like you mentioned.
Jennifer: And I think one of the things that — our goal is, obviously, like I mentioned, to help you to feel confident to transport your child. But knowing that there are many, many different phases of car seat safety within your child’s life — you’re going to start with a rear-facing car seat, and then you’re going to, at some point, transition to a forward-facing car seat, and then you’re going to transition to the booster seat, and then you have to know when it’s okay to ride without something. We do want to be part of your child’s growing-up experience when it comes to car seat safety. We have no problem teaching families multiple times, particularly at those different stages, because some of the basic knowledge is very wonderful to carry from time to time, but there are some significant changes that take place at each stage, and without really having the grasping knowledge of all of those changes, some of them can be really tricky, and some of them can actually be a very significant difference between a good outcome in a crash and a not-so-good outcome. So we’d love to be part of that entire experience of your child’s riding in a car seat time.
Kristin: Love it. Well, thank you for all of this wonderful information! And I would love for you to let our listeners in other regions outside of West Michigan know how to find a licensed car seat safety technician.
Jennifer: Absolutely. Right now, it is awesome because we are really open to this virtual. So whether you’re listening on the east coast or on the east side of the state or even in the Bahamas, you can always reach out to us, and we can help you over the computer. But if you really are looking for that in-person service, you can always go to safekids.org, and there’s a tab at the top that says Find a Car Seat Technician. There, you can enter your ZIP code, and anyone who has chosen to be listed publicly who meets the requirements of being a nationally certified car seat technician is available to find that way. I can’t guarantee that everyone’s doing in-person stuff right now, but there is at least someone who will be within your area, hopefully, that can come and help you in-person if that’s what you’re looking for.
Kristin: Thank you! Any last words of advice for our listeners, Jennifer?
Jennifer: Oh, man. Car seats are a little bit scary, but really, once you take the time to learn them, they are an amazing tool to protect your baby. I often will say to parents, it’s so difficult because you don’t often know what you don’t know until someone tells you. And I would love to be that someone for any of you that are listening because this is a place where you can demonstrate your competence, your knowledge, and your commitment to your child’s safety.
Kristin: That’s great. And Jennifer, remind us again how to find you.
Kristin: Thank you so much! You’ve been listening to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas.