Keep Your Kids Safe From the Pool and a MA DCF Investigation

Parents face a legal risk of a Massachusetts (hereinafter “MA”) Department of Children and Families (hereinafter “DCF”) investigation when children fail to follow pool safety and are injured. Parents will be charged by the DCF law for child neglect for improperly supervising which led to injuries to their child.

Families are finding pools to enjoy the summer weather. DCF is on high alert to investigate child abuse or child neglect.

Why must parents understand pool safety to prevent a MA DCF Investigation?

Parents are taking their children to the swimming pool to protect them from the heat. The swimming pool is a social place where children can learn how to be active, exercise, and have fun with their family. But a visit to the swimming pool has its risks.

The drowning average in the United States is about ten (10) people per day.

There are 6,400 children injured under the age 15 in pool and spa-related activities. The younger the child, the higher their risk of drowning.

A 5 year-old boy was visiting his cousin in Malden, MA. The child drowned in the neighbor’s swimming pool. The facts are unclear how the young boy was able to get into the neighbor’s fenced backyard and unexpectedly met his death by drowning. A split second could mean the difference between safety and tragedy.

The lesson here is that parents must always watch their children while at the pool. It takes only a moment for a child to run off in curiosity while their parent’s attention is elsewhere. Parents safety begins while keeping an eye on their child at the swimming pool. Small children do not have the capacity to understand the dangers of the swimming pool. It’s the parent’s duty to supervise young children, and improper supervision is breaking the law which can result in a MA DCF investigation for child neglect.

Dealing with MA DCF on top of the injury or death of your child is an extra burden you should not have to experience.

How preventive safety measures at the swimming pool can avoid a MA DCF investigation?

Parents have an important responsibility for their children’s safety. Consider the following swimming pool safety tips so that your children can have fun and stay safe at the same time.

1. Never leave children unattended in or near swimming pools

Never leave your child unattended at the swimming pool. Designate an official “Water Watcher.” The Water Watcher should be an adult whose sole responsibility is to supervise children while they play in the swimming pool. That should be their only task – not reading, texting, or browsing their phone.

Lifeguards are at most swimming pools. Do not be welded into a false sense of security because the swimming pool has a lifeguard! The parent always has the primary responsibility for their child’s supervision. The lifeguard should be utilized as a backup or a second set of eyes on your child.

You can partner your child with a buddy or two buddies to protect and look out for each other. You can never have too many people watching your child.

A 2 year-old boy was playing in his Lawrence, MA backyard near a swimming pool. His aunt briefly left him unattended. The mother panicked when she didn’t see her son. Next, she saw her son in the swimming pool and pulled him out while he was unconscious. This young child was saved. Other families have not been so lucky. A tragedy can happen in the blink of an eye.

2. Equip your child with the proper flotation device

Parents should not make the mistake of getting inflatable floating devices for their child’s swimming pool safety. Floaties and other inflatable flotation tools can be dangerous leading to drowning. They can become punctured, damaged, or not inflated enough to prevent drowning situations.

Inflatable floating devices encourage children to develop improper swimming habits. Floaties keep children in a vertical position instead of the correct horizontal swimming position.

The only U.S. Coast Guard approved personal floatation devices (hereinafter “PFD”) for children are life jackets. Parents should not buy life jackets which are too big for their child. Their life jacket must fit snugly to work properly.

The U.S. Coast Guard approves three (3) types of PFDs for children. The following is what each type of PFD does:

  • Type II turns unconscious children from a face-down position in the water to a position where they can breathe.

  • Type III supports a conscious child in the water in an upright position.

  • Type V is intended for restricted uses, or activities like boardsailing, or commercial white water rafting. These devices may not be appropriate for other boating activities.

The Life Jacket Advisor recommends 9 life jackets for active children who weigh 30 to 50 lbs.

Pool toys such as pool noodles and kickboards are not the best idea for child flotation. Pool noodles are only strong enough to hold one child at a time, and they will not prevent your child from possibly drowning. Kickboards are used for kicking and swimming, not for floating.

3. Teach children how to swim

Swimming is not only fun, it’s a lifesaving skill. Teach your child to be comfortable rolling on their backs to float. This will keep your child from drowning.

Pool noodles are great tools to help your child learn how to swim. Parents can also use kickboards to help their children learn how to swim. Parents should not let their children stand on their kickboards while in the swimming pool. When children fall off the kickboard, they can crack their head on the edge of the pool or hurt another child swimming.

Enroll your child in swimming lessons. Free or reduced-cost options are available from your nearby YMCA, USA Swimming chapter, or the Parks and Recreation Department. You can also locate a swim coach for your children through the American Red Cross.

Keep children safe by teaching them how to swim.
Keep children safe by teaching them how to swim

Have rescue equipment nearby when your child shows signs of drowning. These rescue equipment include first aid kits, pool safety rings, throw ropes, and swimming pool safety poles.

4. Have drain covers on your swimming pool

Keep children away from drains or suction outlets, especially in spas and shallow swimming pools. Never enter a swimming pool or spa that has a loose, broken, or missing drain cover. Hair, limbs, jewelry, or bathing suits can all get sucked into a drain. Locate the emergency vacuum shutoff before entering a swimming pool.

Seven-year-old Virginia Graeme Baker, after whom the Pool and Spa Safety Act is named after, died from drowning due to a suction entrapment from a faulty drain cover. As a result of this tragic incident, all public swimming pools and spas are mandated to have drain grates or covers that meet safety standards.

Consult with the pool compliance safety checklist to ensure your swimming pool is up to safety standards.

5. Keep your children away from swimming pool drains

Founder of the Pool Safety Council, Paul Pennington, states, “the force of a drain on a residential pool has a weight of at least 500 pounds…A parent can’t lift 500 pounds off the ground.”

Even with the proper drain covers or the new dome designed drains, inconsistent checkups can lead to overlooking popped up or rusted screws that need to be replaced.

Implement all pool safety measures and make sure the pool drains have proper grates or covers. But if your child ever does get stuck in a drain, Pennington offers advice:

 “Don’t try to lift him or her straight off the drain…the force of the suction makes that impossible. Instead, reach across the child, wedging your fingers between the drain and their body. Then peel or roll them off by pulling sideways.”

6. Install proper barriers, covers, and alarms around your swimming pool and spa

Have a proper gated barrier around the swimming pool to ensure there will be no blink-of-an-eye accidents. Fences, barriers, alarms, and covers can be life saving.

A fence of at least four feet in height should surround the swimming pool or spa on all sides to prevent children from climbing through. The swimming pool should only be accessible through a self-closing and self-latching gate.

Instruct your child to never climb over the gate or fence. Install a door alarm from the house to the pool area and keep swimming pool and spa covers in working order.

7. Know how to perform CPR on children

Learning CPR can help save a life. CPR classes are available through many hospitals, community centers, or by contacting the American Red Cross. Locate a CPR certification around your area through the Red Cross organization.

Once you are CPR certified, you must consistently check that your certification is current.

8. Take the “Pool Safely” Pledge!

Before heading to the pool or spa with your family, take the Pool Safely Pledge. This online call to action is a reminder to stay safer around the water.

The Pool Safely Pledge is a campaign asking Americans to follow safety steps around the water.
The Pool Safely Pledge is a campaign asking Americans to follow safety steps around the water.

What is the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act?

The tragedy of seven-year-old Virginia Graeme Baker led to the founding of the Pool & Spa Safety Act, signed into federal law in December 2007. This act was in response to the need for a coordinated effort to prevent further loss of life in pools and jacuzzi areas.

Though she was a swimmer on her community swim team, Graeme Baker got stuck in a hot tub drain. Even with the efforts of her mother and two full-grown men in attempting to pull her out, Graeme drowned due to the suction force of a faulty drain cover.

This tragic story of young Graeme serves as a reminder for future generations of parents and children to ensure safety precautions are taken when visiting the swimming pool. Be proactive in these preventative measures, and keep your children educated on these dangers.

Following the Pool Safely steps will allow you as a parent to avoid any MA DCF investigation concerning child neglect. Be sure to stay constant and updated with all safety precautions.

Kevin Patrick Seaver is located in Boston MA specializing in DCF law representing clients versus the MA DCF throughout the state of MA .

Kevin Seaver is a trusted Massachusetts lawyer since 1991.

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