If your community is eligible to receive services from an existing program, most likely, the program will already have an eligibility requirement, education system, and a tracking system in place for distributing seats. Usually, these things are determined by the funding organization. Even if your community is not able to receive services directly from the existing program, a partnership with them will strengthen your own program. The existing program may be willing to share their funding source, educational materials, or tracking system with you. In the very least, you can do check points and health fairs together.
During my CPS tech training, one of the instructors mentioned another instructor that we might want to partner with who worked at the Moscow Police Department, a town about 40 miles from the Nez Perce Reservation. She was a cop and was always looking to gather extra CPS techs to help with their check-up events and safety fairs. We contacted her upon our return and agreed to help her out with a car seat check event on National Night Out in Moscow in the Applebee’s parking lot. This was the first time they had held a National Night Out, so we only had a few families attend. While we were there waiting for families to get their car seats checked, we CPS techs started discussing how we were going to use our new tech certification. Marie Miller, a Moscow Police Officer and fellow CPS tech, let us know about a car seat grant from the state that she received, which allowed her program to distribute car seats. To help get these car seats out to different communities, she needed to partner with other CPS techs to distribute them to a broad range of people. She had tried in the past to get a hold of someone at our clinic, but her phone calls were not returned. I let her know that we were very interested, and wanted to partner with her in any way we could. Three of us had just gotten certified as CPS techs, but we didn’t have any car seats for events, checks, and education. It benefitted both of us to start a partnership.
Marie said that if we partnered with her and the Moscow Police Department, she would give us car seats when she had them. We could come and get them whenever we needed more for our community. Her seat variety was amazing, with great brands and all types of seats to choose from–convertible, combination, high back booster, and no back booster seats. We were able to create our own car seat distribtuion program–with criteria that we developed with state requirements. Each seat needed to have the proper paperwork completed and the car seat check completed with the parents when they received a seat. We needed to feel comfortable that the parent could install the seat correctly before they left the appointment. We would show them how to properly install the seat, and then they would model it back to us before they left.
If your organization requires a memorandum of understanding (MOU) or contract to formalize these relationships, here is a sample for you to work with. In our experience, this is not usually necessary and may even complicate partnerships.
“My relationship with the Moscow Police Department isn’t formalized and it has worked out well. Since we are both professionals and CPS techs, I think the partnership works out great. I think sometimes having an MOU or contract can make it harder to form relationships. In my organization I can’t do an MOU with just me and the person. I need to have our Executive Director and several other people approve any contract that is made. This, to me, is too much of a headache and too many hoops to jump through. Plus, I’ve noticed that potential partners are reluctant to make a relationship too formal. It may work better to be flexible about the partnership.”
The only downside to relying on a partnership for your distribution program is that if something changes within their program, it affects you too, and you will not have much power to change it. For example, if their grant changes the eligibility criteria, some needy families may no longer be eligible for seats. Also, if their funding goes away, you may have a gap where you go without seats for a couple of months until new funding comes in. These things can happen in your own program as well, but the more independent you are, the more power to seek funding or negotiate eligibility requirements you have.