Sarasota plans to be Florida's first county to have all of its child-care centers "safe sleep" certified, officials with Sarasota County and Florida Department of Children and Families said in a joint news conference Thursday.
To accomplish that, the staffs of all 185 day-care centers in Sarasota, including faith-based facilities, will get training on why an estimated 100 babies died in Florida last year from being suffocated by a sleeping partner, a blanket, a stuffed toy or from sleeping on their stomachs.
Sarasota is calling its quest "Safe Sleep Sarasota Initiative," officials told the crowd gathered at the Sarasota County Sheriff's
Office on Ringling Boulevard.
"We would present decals to the centers that get certified, and if they all get one Sarasota would be the first of Florida's 67 counties to have all of its child-care facilities 'safe certified,'" said Mike Carroll, Interim Secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families.
Ten Sarasota County organizations have already agreed to be part of the initiative, in which families that might benefit will be given a "Pack n Play" crib, pacifiers and a sleep sack, which takes away the need for a blanket, which can suffocate a child.
Changing attitudes about a baby's best sleep condition, such as explaining to parents to never put babies to bed on their stomachs, will be part of the initiative, said Laura McIntyre of Family Safety Alliance of Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto.
McIntyre said that the initiative was actually inspired by the work of Major Connie Shingledecker of the Manatee County Sheriff's Office, who has pioneered getting cribs for needy families to prevent "roll over" infant deaths.
"Our initiative is simply what Manatee has done on steroids," McIntyre said.
Richard Dymond, Herald health reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072.