What Is the WIC Car Seat Program?

Quinn Dombrowski/Flickr

Every state has its own laws regarding infant and child car seat use. These standards state the specifics for age, weight and size of the child where their safety is of concern when riding in a vehicle. States have implemented government-funded programs to ensure every child is provided with this basic travel necessity. The WIC car seat program is one example of this.

Purpose of the WIC Program

The WIC program was designed to provide women, infants and children up to the age of five with basic nutritional support.  The WIC program is operated by each state with funds provided by the federal government. The program provides food, support and training to those affected by poor nutrition. Completing courses is mandatory to maintain eligibility.

Scary Statistics Related to Improper Car Seat Usage

According to the American Society for the Positive Care of Children, there are 618,000 children not properly buckled in when riding in a vehicle at least some of the time every year. The organization estimates 50 to 70 percent of infant and child injuries and deaths could be prevented every year. Unfortunately, the cost for car seats prevents some people from using them as needed.

Average Cost for Car Seat

The cost of a car seat ranges from $40 to $450, according to Consumer Reports. This amount goes up when extra safety and comfort features are added. Other factors that contribute to the cost include weight and age accommodations, as well as the brand of the car seat. Parents often look for alternative ways to secure their child in a vehicle due to these expenses. A common option is to use second-hand equipment.

Used Car Seat Risks

Research has been performed for decades on the use and risks of used car seats. The collected data shows used car seats present their own risks to children that ride in them.

Most used car seats come from thrift stores or friends trying to help with lowering costs. You cannot be sure of the stress or flaws these used car seats have encountered. Minor fender benders can take their toll on the stitching of straps or leave unseen cracks in the main structure of a car seat that weaken them.

The changing regulations and laws are another factor to consider choosing used car seats for your child. These standards are in place to keep your child safe in the event of an accident. From court fines to medical expenses for your child, the price for using a second-hand car seat may cost you and your child much more than getting a new car seat.

WIC Car Seat Program Assistance

The WIC car seat program provides assistance to low-income families when the costs of a new car seat is overwhelming. The program may require you to attend safety courses, depending on the state you live in. This helps ensure you know how to properly install and use the device. 

Some states provide free car seats for qualifying families while others charge a small fee. You can find out more information specific to your state’s requirements through your local WIC office, Department of Human Services, hospital or pediatrician’s office.

WIC Car Seat Program Requirements

Each state has its own requirements for the WIC car seat program. The most common terms are related to meeting the income guidelines within the home. Whenever you are in need of assistance for obtaining safe and approved car seats for your child, you’re encouraged to contact your local WIC office to find out if you qualify to receive this service.