“So this is a child whose parent apparently didn’t watch him closely enough in the water…”
As part of its seventh annual Water Wise campaign, the YMCA of Greater Houston is simulating a child drowning in the pool at the Weekley Family YMCA in southwest Houston.
Every year, an average of 70 children drown in Texas. So far this year, 16 children have drowned across the state, including nine in the Houston area.
Those numbers are preventable, says Kristine Meyerson, YMCA director of aquatics.
“The goal of the program is to eliminate drowning in our community through water safety education and through teaching basic swimming skills, so it’s a lofty goal but a goal we really believe in.”
As part of the campaign, about 40 English and Spanish language billboards throughout the Houston area will remind parents to always watch their kids when they’re around pools.
Gwen Carter is with Child Protective Services.
“You know, what we see a lot is that parents assume that someone else is watching their child. We’ve had children drown at parties in pools where there are lots of adults, and we’ve seen children drown where a parent stepped away for a minute. You have to watch your children at all times.”
She says the nine children who drowned in Houston this year were between 10 months and 5 years old. They drowned in the bathtub, in backyard and apartment pools and one drowned in a community pool.
Carter says Houston routinely has the highest number of child drownings in Texas.
“We have a large – the largest – child population. But also we have a great deal of water and there are a great number of activities in the greater Houston area that are focused in on the water – going to the beach, swimming parties…”
To date, nearly 50-thousand kids have taken swim lessons at Houston’s YMCA facilities but YMCA President Clark Baker says there are many more who need to be taught.
“What we don’t know about are the people who live in apartment communities who are new to our country, new to our city. They are newcomers, they are challenged with language, they are challenged with navigation skills.”
To reach those families, the Houston Apartment Association is also part of the campaign. Almost half of Houstonians live in apartments.
Carter says learning how to swim is important for children but even if they can swim, they should be supervised when they’re near water.