1. Safety First: Affluent D.C. Parents and the Baby-Safety-Industrial Complex

    By Kathryn Masterson 

    Photos by Darrow Montgomery

    Tammy Loverdos enters a three-story Capitol Hill rowhouse with a clipboard, a box of demonstration latches, and a folder stocked with safety pamphlets. She’s been called, as she is between five and 10 times a week around the region, to give an expert’s eye to the potential dangers that could meet this home’s youngest resident.

    Loverdos, who works for Safe Start Baby, the biggest professional baby-proofing company in the area, goes methodically from room to room, pointing out places where an infant could get into trouble. She then offers solutions, suggesting specific products or methods to reduce risks.

    Those solutions range from the obvious—gates at the top and bottom of the stairs, locks on kitchen cabinets and on drawers where electronics are stored—to the less so. A coat rack by the front door could tip if tugged on, giving a nasty bump. Should it be wired to a wall? The video baby monitor attached to the crib could strangle a baby caught in its cord. Placing it on a shelf on the wall would keep it out of reach.

    For Loverdos, who worked for an international development nonprofit before becoming a child safety assessor, the Capital Hill job was a relatively simple one. Though the house had three floors, it was completely free of clutter. The electronics of modern life were already stored away, with no laptops or jumbled piles of phone chargers on counters. There were no towers of books, piles of junk on tables, or scatterings of spare change.

    And door latches were already in place. Loverdos recognized them as the same kind she was carrying in her box. The house’s previous occupants had already baby-proofed the house—most likely through Safe Start Baby. A baby-proofer’s job involves a lot of anticipation, but Loverdos says this is the first time she’s assessed a house her company probably had already worked on.

    It may not be the last. Professional child-proofing services, which come to your house to identify hazards, then install the products to mitigate them, are growing rapidly in the Washington area. They offer a potent mix of convenience, protection, and reassurance that resonates with this region’s educated, busy parents. “Do you really want to spent your weekend trying to invent a way to fit your gate around a wobbly staircase?” Loverdos says.

    Read More