In 2011, one of the staff at NIŁ TU,O (who is now retired) discussed how difficult it was to get free beds for families she was working with. She said the year previous, she could get a free bed from a major bed supplier in as little time as a month.
However, the wait time had greatly increased and was now over a year. I asked why she was concerned about getting free beds; couldn’t people just buy their own? She answered no: these are families living below the poverty line, they don’t have credit cards or a vehicle, and have minimum-wage jobs. I asked what does that have to do with her work. “Well, if a child or youth doesn’t have a clean, safe bed to sleep in,” she replied, “it impacts their health, ability to concentrate at school, growth, and it puts them at risk of being removed from their family because it can be considered neglect. Neglect is a reason to remove a child from their home. What we discovered is, it is not neglect but poverty.”
It was decided then that NIŁ TU,O would create a program to help address this risk. The “Sweet Dreams, Safe Sleep” Bed Program now provides both physical beds and an educational opportunity for families to learn about the importance of sleep and having a safe place to sleep.
The educational information included in the program covers three elements: bedding care, children and youth, and safe sleep practices.
Bedding care includes information on how mattress covers, sheets and pillowcases improve the hygiene and lifespan of mattresses. Bedding care also includes guidelines on when to wash and change sheets, duvet covers, pillows and more.
Children and Youth
The children and youth portion of the program includes helpful information on bedtimes, routines, and how to get children to go to and stay in bed, no matter what age they are.
Safe Sleep Practices
The safe sleep practices component of the program offers a great education on the wonderful benefits of sleep; from heightened immunity to better concentration, moods and even fewer injuries.
NIŁ TU,O’s “Sweet Dreams, Safe Sleep” Bed Program provides children and teens under the age of 19 with a safe, clean bed to call their own. This program promotes health and wellness through safe sleep and healthy bed practices.
Through this initiative, NIŁ TU,O physically provides new bed frames, mattresses, sheets, comforters and pillows to children and youth in the community who need them. In addition to a bed and bedding, each family receives a 15-minute presentation by a Family Support Worker. To date, over 140 new beds have been provided to children and youth in the seven Nations we serve. To be eligible for this program, a family must currently receive services through a NIŁ TU,O Family Support Worker.
Katharina Stocker, NIŁ TU,O’s Executive Director, notes: “Sweet Dreams; Safe Sleep is just one of the many programs we have to support families with children.”