September 7, 2007
Job niche born to give parents peace of mind
RANDY PENCH/SACREMENTO BEE/MCT
Eric Quint stumbled into his career as a childproofer six years ago when a cousin showed him all the precautions he'd installed to keep his baby safe.
Quint was impressed with the work – until his cousin mentioned how much it cost.
"I could do the job way better and for less money," Quint said he thought at the time. "I knew I had the ability."
Today, he is helping parents and caregivers keep children safe from falls, electrocution and other at-home dangers.
His job, as he describes it: "Find everything that's a hazard to your child."
He's not the only one seeking to compete in this emerging field. Whether it's Safe and Sound in King of Prussia, Pa.; Foresight Childproofing of Eden Prairie, Minn.; InfantHouse.com in Flower Mound, Texas; or Eric's Child Safety Services in Antelope, Calif., more people are seeking fortune and fulfillment by ensuring parents' peace of mind.
Lurking dangers take a huge toll each year. In 2004, the last year for which complete statistics were available, 5,359 children died from unintentional injuries, according to Safe Kids Worldwide, a nonprofit group in Washington, D.C., that works to prevent unintentional childhood injuries.
The six most common causes of death in 2004 were burns, suffocation, drowning, choking, falls and poisoning, Safe Kids Worldwide reported.
Because such accidents are widely publicized, people understand the potential severity of home accidents, said Safe and Sound co-founder Richard Shandelman, whose 15-year-old company is considered an old-timer in this field.
Only in the last two decades have parents considered contracting out the work. Many parents still do it themselves, said Ken Goore, owner of Goore's Furniture & Accessories for Babies to Teens in Sacramento.
"It's a major department in our store in terms of sales volume," said Goore, who ranks child-safety equipment among his top three revenue generators per square foot.
Parents, caregivers and small businesses purchased as much as $235 million worth of child-safety merchandise last year, according to an industry trade group.
Melanie and Robert Dunn of Citrus Heights, Calif., tackled babyproofing on their own. After their first child was born four years ago, Melanie installed socket plugs, locks, door alarms and safety latches, while Robert crafted hinged safety gates to keep baby from taking a tumble.
Jeffrey Jacobstein, a father of three, also assessed the risks at his El Dorado Hills, Calif., home, then made the renovations.
Later, when he was considering giving up his old line of work: Could he make a living by making homes safer for babies and children?
His answer was yes. He opened Crumb Crunchers Babyproofing and Child Safety Consultants this year. It was tough slogging at first, he said, but the business has caught its stride.
Jacobstein has branched out to provide safety classes for local mothers' groups. He researched the idea and talked with other childproofers and the International Association of Child Safety, a trade group. Then he secured startup capital.
"Our goal is to save kids' lives and prevent injuries," Jacobstein said. "We may not know the fruits of what we're doing, but it helps kids to be safe."
Before launching his business, Quint did his research, calling the International Association for Child Safety just as Jacobstein had done. He received one-on-one training from a group representative.
Six months later, Eric's Child Safety Service was born.
"You're not putting a cabinet in somebody's home. You're stopping a kid from getting poisoned," said Quint, who is insured and is licensed as both a general and specialty contractor.
"You've got to go in like you're protecting your own kid."
Each company starts with an in-home consultation, often 90 minutes or longer.
The consultants quiz parents using an extensive checklist: Are one or both parents home during the day? Are there older children in the house? What toys are about?
The answers yield a childproofing plan. The typical list of equipment includes baby gates; safety locks; and latches for drawers, cabinets and cupboards.
It can become even more extensive, though, with locks for everything from windows to toilets; slip-proof bathtub mats; straps to secure televisions and stereo speakers; and fencing for swimming pools and fireplaces.
For Quint, a childproofing job normally ranges from $700 to $1,500 or more for what he calls a full childproofing – locks, latches, safety gates, Plexiglas barriers and more.
Childproofers Alison and Kenny Rhodes also stress creating so-called "safe zones" for children – areas in the home where children are least likely to run across hazards and where they are easily seen by Mom and Dad.
"You don't think something is going to happen to your child; you get complacent," said Alison Rhodes of Peek-a-Boo Babyproofing in Wilton, Conn.
"[Parents] say they never take their eyes off their child, [but] we talk about creating 'safe zones' so they have peace of mind," she said.
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