You just completed your Child Passenger Safety Technician certification course? Congratulations! So now you have a bunch of knowledge and you’re not sure what to do or where to even start? Welcome to the club! We hope this post will help guide you in your CPST journey.
First Things First
Take a step back and start thinking…where would you like this to go? What do you see yourself doing with this certification in the next two years? After that? Obviously you aren’t going to start a business tomorrow, but if that’s something you’d like to eventually do, it’s good to know what direction you’re going. We will try and include ALL the advice we can think of, but if you plan on just volunteering at a few events with your local coalition who is pretty active, you won’t have much work to do. On the other hand, if you plan on being very active, but there are not many local techs or you don’t have a local coalition, you’ll need to do some work to get started.
Do You Need Liability Insurance?
Maybe. Most car seat checkup events are covered the agency sponsoring the event. But what about private car seat checks? CPS Board offers a series of videos reviewing liability. You will also want to review the laws for your state. Whether you have insurance or not, be sure you have the parents sign a waiver before you begin and thoroughly document every car seat check. If you are interested in getting professional liability insurance, look into companies that offer insurance for Health and Safety Educators. Some examples include the American Council of Healthcare Professionals – Allied Healthcare Professional Insurance Center, and the Healthcare Providers Service Organization. You can also try contacting your homeowner insurance provider to see what they recommend for you.
What Local Resources Are Available?
Once you figure out your direction, take inventory of what is already in your area. Are there active Safe Kids coalitions? County or hospital car seat programs? Private car seat check businesses?
If there are resources in your area, start contacting them. Get on your state and local Safe Kids distribution lists. Reach out to your instructors and do some internet searches to see if there are any other programs in your area. Check the Safe Kids website and search for local techs. Start emailing everyone and introduce yourself.
If there are no resources in your area, you are going to have a trickier time, but you should be in high demand once your name gets out! Start by connecting with other technicians, either on Facebook (there are groups just for CPSTs), or through email (try contacting your instructors and the other techs from your class), so that you have some support.
Get Some More Knowledge and Experience
It is HIGHLY recommended that you gain more experience before conducting private car seat checks. The best way to do this is to work with other techs at events or at their private checks until you are comfortable doing checks on your own. Contact all of your friends and family and beg them to let you practice on them. If you are on Facebook, join one of the many car seat safety education groups. There are also CPST only groups that can be informative and helpful. Gain more knowledge by reading the manuals of car seats popular in your area, and read blog posts, articles, and resources found on reputable car seat blogs and websites. Our favorites are Car Seats for the Littles, CarseatBlog, The Car Seat Lady, and SafetyBeltSafe.
Answer Questions Online
Find local groups and watch for car seat questions. If this resource is lacking in your area, you will become popular very quickly! While online help is not a replacement for in person car seat checks, you will reach more people this way.
Volunteer at Car Seat Check Events
This is the best way to gain experience! You’ll be able to work with seasoned technicians who can check your work and offer advice. Down the road you’ll be able to get your seats signed off for re-certification. We recognize that this can be difficult if you do not have an active local coalition, so if this is the case you’ll need to find other ways of obtaining more experience as a CPST. If there are no local car seat check events, see if you can recruit some other technicians and set one up!
Teach A Class
Teaching a class is the next easiest way to jump into the car seat education world. Safe Kids has a presentation you can customize or you can put together your own material. We recommend customizing it to the group you are teaching. In general we like to include information about ages and stages, installation and harnessing, and common mistakes. Here are a few possible leads for setting up a class:
- Parent groups like MOPS, MOMS Club, Stroller Strides, etc.
- Local, online groups
- Preschools & Elementary Schools
- Local nonprofits focused on children
- Obstetricians & Midwives
- Lactation Consultants
- Ultrasound Imaging
- Law Enforcement
- City Hall/Community Recreation
- Local Library
- Boutique baby/children’s stores
- Large homeowners associations
Host a Table
Another easy way to educate the community is by hosting a table at an event or at a child centered location (like a baby store or preschool). See our post with lots of ideas for this!
Check Car Seats Privately
Let us start by recommending whenever possible, that you bring another tech with you. Even for experienced technicians it is very helpful to have a second set of eyes, someone to transcribe, and someone to help educate so you aren’t the only one talking! If you won’t have another CPST with you, get the phone number of one you can text or call to answer any questions you may have while at your check.
It’s easiest to start practicing private seat checks with your friends and family. Once you feel confident and comfortable branching out, start advertising yourself in local groups. Purchase business cards (even if you aren’t starting a company) with your contact information and leave them at child focused places of business. It can be helpful to set up a Facebook page for people to contact you.
Once you have appointments set up, try to be as prepared as possible. Have caregivers give you as much information about the children, the car seats, and vehicle as possible. We use a Google form for this purpose. Then you can look up the car seat manual, watch videos, and check your LATCH manual if you have one.
Any other ideas?
What did you find helpful as a newbie? Send us your tips or ideas for new CPSTs!