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Above left: Nicole Wetzel and Anna Moffa, family development program educators with Fort Drum's Family Advocacy Program demonstrate how easily it is for children to confuse household cleaning products and medicine with food or candy. Above right: Moffa demonstrates common kitchen hazards. The “Healthy Environments: Creating a Safe, Kid-Friendly Space” workshop features hands-on, interactive home safety instruction to help parents and caregivers identify hidden dangers and risks in different areas of the home. This is available to parents and caregivers at Fort Drum at the Soldier and Family Readiness Division’s new Enrichment Center. (Photos by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)


Fort Drum’s new Enrichment Center offers ‘Healthy Environment’ for learning home safety


Mike Strasser

Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs


FORT DRUM, N.Y. – The Fort Drum Family Advocacy Program staff is inviting the community to celebrate the grand opening of the Soldier and Family Readiness Division’s new Enrichment Center at a Summer Safety Luau from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 22.

Located at Bldg. 10262 on 4th Armored Division Drive, the Enrichment Center has been open for playgroups and workshops since May.

One of those workshops, called “Healthy Environments: Creating a Safe, Kid-Friendly Space,” features hands-on, interactive home safety instruction to help parents and caregivers identify hidden dangers and risks in different areas of the home.

“Healthy Environments is all about a creating a safe living environment for families with children of all ages,” said Nicole Wetzel, family development program educator.

This is made easier because the discussion between educators and participants is supplemented with visual aids to identify home safety hazards. One display shows various household cleaning supplies and types of medicine that children can easily mistake for food. Some products feature bright colors that are alluring to children – such as a floor cleaner that has the same look as apple juice.

“A lot of times people might say the differences are obvious,” Wetzel said. “They might say, ‘Of course, that one is cough syrup and the other is cranberry juice.’ But we try to remind them that adults can use more logic to distinguish the difference, whereas a child isn’t going to have that advanced thought process. So it is up to the parent to protect their children from making those mistakes.”

With that, educators offer safe storage tips and different ways to keep items out of reach from children.

Anna Moffa, family development program educator, said they also discuss the potential side effects from accidental ingestion of different products and medicine.

“We also talk about proper disposal, and a lot of people don’t know that you can discard old or unwanted medications at Guthrie (Ambulatory Health Care Clinic),” she said. “And when you PCS (permanent change of station), it’s easy to find (an off-post pharmacy) and drop off your medicines there.”

“We have started to talk a lot about battery hazards, which is a new concern coming out because lithium batteries can cause severe burns,” Wetzel added.

During the workshop, participants can tour a kitchen, bathroom and living room inside the Enrichment Center to find a variety of safety risks – some more obvious than others.

“It’s like an adult search-and-find,” Wetzel said. “They can go to any room and pick out some of the hazards, and we’ll talk about why they are hazards. The big thing we want to get across is that even though you might think your children know better – they know not to drink your energy drink when you’re looking – it’s when you’re not looking when they get a little more curious. So you need to make it not accessible to kids.”

From toddlers to teens, Wetzel said that the program looks into age-specific risks in the home and helps parents find ways to safeguard their living environment.

“We’re doing a big safe sleep push now based on the number of safe sleep-related fatalities across the county,” she said.

Since hazards aren’t limited to inside the home, Moffa said they try to include some items found outside.

“It’s that time where you see a lot of kiddie pools,” she said. “Small children can drown in less than two inches of water, especially babies if they fall forward.”

Wetzel said that participants aren’t graded on what they know or don’t know, and it isn’t supposed to make anyone feel like they were fooled.

“I feel like we do a very good job about not being judgmental in what we are doing,” Wetzel said. “We are here to provide a service and to help you in any way we can. It’s very welcoming and informative at a level I would say is judgment-free. We all have questions about parenting, and I’ve learned some things. Parents are constantly giving us ideas that we can use to add or adjust this program.”

While the program’s main audience is parents and caregivers, the staff also has scheduled a workshop for senior leaders so they can learn how to conduct wellness checks for their Soldiers and families.

“We get a wide variety of people attending the workshop,” she said. “Some are referred to us, sometimes they come because they need help in a particular area, or sometimes there are custody changes and somebody is experiencing sole custody for the first time and they want to help themselves be better at that.”

In the past, FAP educators would set up their workshop at community centers or in a classroom. Wetzel said that having their own dedicated space at the Enrichment Center has made all the difference.

“We worked really hard to make the workshop more structured and more hands-on,” Wetzel said. “We also find that it’s better having a private space because if families are having a lot of issues, they will want that privacy. This allows them to come in and be more relaxed and maybe more open to talking with us.”

The workshop generally lasts for about 90 minutes, but FAP educators are always willing to talk longer with parents, or address specific needs with family members. Most workshops are generally scheduled as one-on-one sessions.

Community members who are interested in scheduling a Healthy Environments class can call FAP at (315) 772-5914.