ethia_bray_carter_2.jpgLovetta Minor never gave thought to answering her cell phone and walking out of the bathroom while bathing her 10-month-old daughter.

As long as the infant could sit up on her own, the 15-year-old mother thought, it was OK “because she won’t fall back in the tub and bump her head.”

The Fort Lauderdale teen was also frustrated with her daughter’s “constant crying and all the responsibilities of caring for a baby” and often “yells at her like it’s her fault.”

Sandra Joseph, 21, is 39 weeks pregnant with her second child. The Fort Lauderdale resident was unaware that a car safety seat “should be purchased by weight.”

Rebecca Michel, 21, also of Fort Lauderdale, did not know “just how important” teaching a child to read early and allowing the child to write and color is to his or her education.

The three mothers sought advice on how to improve their parenting skills at the third annual Baby Shower 2 Empower on Sept. 17, focusing this year on child safety.

The event, sponsored by Broward Healthy Start Coalition and the Black Infant Health Practice Initiative, took place at the Joseph C. Carter Park in Fort Lauderdale.

Some 450 people attended the event where parents were offered eight 30-minute sessions on childcare and child safety: infant CPR, drowning prevention, parenting, early literacy, car and car seat safety, healthy relationships and coping with crying.

The decision to focus on safety was based on the disparity in the number of infant deaths between blacks and whites, said Dr. Augustin McDaniel, who chairs the Coalition’s board.

“We wanted to do what we could to lessen the numbers, to educate mothers,” McDaniel said.

The non-profit Coalition has been assisting expectant mothers, infants and children in Broward County since 1991. Its mission is to reduce and prevent poor birth outcomes and promote infant development.

The Initiative is a statewide program to address racial disparity in infant deaths in Florida. Black infant mortality rates in Broward County are twice those of whites, said David Duresky, the Coalition’s quality assurance coordinator.

“Studies have shown that this is not about a lack of proper nutrition but the stress the mother is under,” said Duresky.

If the baby cries, Donna Sogien, the Coalition’s executive director said, the mother or caregiver may become frustrated and shake or throw the child. “We teach them to put the baby down and walk away [and] return every 10 or so minutes to check on the child; make sure he or she is safe,” she said.

Many babies are shaken by a male who is not the father or drown while under the care of a person who is not the mother.

Babies have drowned in just a few inches of water, she said. “This is not only in pools, but in bathtubs as well.
Even if they can sit up on their own, their heads are heavy, so they fall forward and can't pick [themselves] up,” she explained.

Drowning is the leading cause of death for children aged 1-4, McDaniel said.

According to Coalition research and data charts, for every child who drowns, four more nearly drown, often with life-changing injuries.  Also, black women are 21 percent less likely to enter into prenatal care during their first trimester of pregnancy in Broward County.

• For more information on childcare education, call the Broward Healthy Start Coalition, 954-563-7583, or log on to

Cynthia Roby may be reached at

CAROL PORTER/FOR SOUTH FLORIDA TIMES. THREE GENERATIONS: Maria Bray holds her daughter Aliyah Nicole Smith while grandmother Ethia Bray-Carter looks on during a parenting event held in Fort Lauderdale Sept. 17, sponsored by Broward Healthy Start Coalition and the Black Infant Health Practice Initiative.


Pictured: Ethia Bray-Carter