My mission is to create safer environments for children by sharing my story, advocating for furniture tip-over prevention, and connecting parents to resources.
I’m Janet McGee. I’m a Christian, a wife, a mother, and a former mortician. For years, I served grieving families. But I never thought in a million years I would lose my own son in a devastating furniture tip-over accident.
I don’t know why my son died so tragically, but I believe God can take even the most horrific messes in our lives and transform them into something beautiful. He is working through me in ways I didn’t even know were possible. Exodus 4:10-12 shows us an exchange between Moses and God when God called him to perform extraordinary things. At this point, I’m just trusting Him to give me the voice I need.
“Visiting Ted in Heaven” by Janet McGee, illustrated by Deborah Garcia
Some deaths are simply expected due to age. Other deaths are an answer to prayer for our loved ones who are suffering. But for some of us, the death of a loved one can come uninvited. Unexpected. Like a dark and powerful storm that injects itself into our life and sucks out every ounce of joy and hope. Then it leaves as quickly as it came. And you sit stunned, unable to understand why this storm chose you as its target. This was how Ted’s death felt to me.
A year after Ted died, I received a true gift from God. It was the pivotal moment that I felt hope and joy again after feeling empty for a year. I had a dream that left me speechless and in tears. In my dream I journeyed to Heaven, where I spent time with Ted, and heard his feelings about his new home in Heaven. The things he told me provided me so much comfort and peace. I felt compelled to share this gift with others through a children’s book, “Visiting Ted in Heaven.”
Throughout most of my 20s, I had the privilege of working as a mortician. During that time, I served hundreds of families surrounding the death of their loved ones. One observation I had throughout those years was that many parents had a difficult time discussing death with their children, especially following an untimely death. They struggled to answer their children’s questions when they, themselves, were having a hard time understanding why this dark storm had hit them. It is my hope that this book can not only provide comfort and peace to children and parents who have experienced the death of someone close to them, but also act as a starting point for parents to have a conversation with their children about their own loved one’s death.
Ted and Daddy, just before our family left for the Minneapolis Institute of Art. We enjoyed an afternoon exploring art at Mia just two weeks before Ted died.
Enjoying a beautiful summer day in Northern Minnesota.
Ted was showing me his “muscles” the morning before he died. This was the last photo anyone took of him alive.
Ted was always my little helper in the kitchen. He loved to eat!
Representing both Mommy and Daddy’s alma mater.
Having a blast at the local splash pad the summer before he died.
We didn’t know Ted’s last Christmas would come so soon. Here he is enjoying a sweet treat at his last Cookie Day, our annual day filled with Christmas cookie baking.
Our family enjoys playing tennis together, and Ted jumped right in to join us as soon as he learned to walk.
Ted loved Chloe, his best friend and our family’s little maltipoo dog. Chloe slept in Ted’s empty bed for many days after he died.
My little monkey right before his first (and only) time trick-or-treating.
Ted’s first 5k!
Watching just one of many football games with Daddy.
Ted loved everything about books. He loved being read to and loved “reading” them by himself.
Visiting the zoo the summer before he died. He looked so hard to find the gorilla, until he realized it was right next to him!
Ted reading his first bible. He loved listening to bible stories. When I would ask Ted who God loved, he would proudly point to himself and proclaim, “ME!”
Before Ted died, I was completely unaware of the many organizations out there that promote child product safety, and specifically, work to prevent furniture tip-overs. In 2015, the Consumer Product Safety Commission launched an Anchor It! Campaign to bring further awareness to the dangers of unanchored TVs, furniture, and appliances. Their site contains a lot of great information on the dangers of tip-overs, what you can do to prevent them from happening in your home, as well as detailed information on what and how to anchor furniture.
Unfortunately, yes. When Ted died, we thought it was a freak accident. But in the weeks following his death, we learned that this happens much more than we thought. According to the CPSC, on average, a child dies every two weeks when a TV or piece of furniture falls onto him or her. That statistic shows us that far too many innocent children are dying in ways that could easily be prevented.
I only buy expensive dressers that are very sturdy, and from reputable companies. Do I need to anchor them?
In 2016, Kids in Danger and Shane’s Foundation released ground-breaking research on various dressers on the market, ranging from $88-$899. They found that a majority of the dressers they tested were susceptible to tip in a real-use scenario in a home when not anchored, regardless of how much the dresser cost. Here is the press release that sums up their findings, as well as the full report on specifically which dressers were tested.
Additionally, Consumer Reports launched a year-long investigation of this issue and released it in March of 2018. They found that it was impossible to eyeball a dresser to know if it met safety standards or not, and cost didn’t matter. Here is a great article that features their findings (as well as Ted’s story), and a video that also explains their findings.
Bottom line, it’s your call as a parent to decide what is best for your household. Based on my own personal experience, and from speaking with other parents who have lost children from expensive, sturdy dressers, my answer to this question is “YES!” My son died from a dresser falling on him. A simple $5 anchor kit and 10 minutes of my time might have prevented his death. We never want another child to suffer the way Ted did. Why risk it?
Yes, it does. Like me, you might be surprised to hear that even short dressers have killed children. Visit Charlie’s House to learn about a precious little 2-year-old boy, Charlie Horn, who died when his 30” dresser fell on him.
There are many different types of anchor kits on the market today that are easy to install, affordable, and will prevent your TVs and furniture from tipping. The only type I would recommend avoiding completely are the plastic cables because they can become brittle over time. In my personal quest to scope out local brick and mortar stores, I found only a handful of companies in my area (Twin Cities, MN) that sold anchor kits. Babies R Us and Buy Buy Baby are two of only a handful of places that carry a large inventory in their stores in my area. Many more can be found at various places online, such as Amazon. Meghan’s Hope provides a great overview of many anchor kits on the market today, as well as links for where to purchase them.
The International Association for Child Safety (IAFCS) is a great resource to answer this question. Click HERE to watch a step-by-step video of a professional childproofer installing an anchor kit in a child’s bedroom.
HERE is another great video released by Consumer Reports in March of 2018 that walks you through how to anchor a piece of furniture to drywall.
I recommend watching both videos above; sometimes seeing it done a couple different ways helps you gain a better understanding of how to install them.
But what if you don’t have drywall in your home? How do you anchor your furniture then? Consumer Reports provides a wonderful overview of how to anchor to different types of walls, including drywall, plaster, and masonry walls in this article, as well as how to patch up holes.
Not handy or prefer to hire a professional to install anchor kits in your home? The IAFCS also offers a place to locate a professional childproofer near you.
Where can I go to find a full listing of all of the child safety rules I should be implementing in my home to create a safe environment for my family?
Charlie’s House is a reputable organization whose objective is to keep children safe in their homes. Their Virtual House allows you to click through every room in a home to show where child safety measures should be implemented. You may also view Charlie’s Safety List for a full list of safety measures you can take to prevent injuries and deaths in and around your home.
I recommend getting the dresser out of your home entirely. My son was killed by the 6-drawer MALM dresser from IKEA. His death sparked the largest furniture recall in U.S. history when IKEA recalled 29 million dressers in 2016 that were susceptible to tip if unanchored to a wall because they didn’t meet the current safety standards. As part of the recall, IKEA has agreed to actually come to your home to pick it up, as well as refund you the cost of the dresser. To participate in the recall and learn about all of your options, contact IKEA at 1-866-856-4532 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you aren’t sure if your IKEA dresser is one of the 29 million that were recalled, click HERE to check.
I have purchased some of my furniture secondhand. Is there a way I can look up certain products to see if a recall has ever been done on them?
Yes. The CPSC maintains a database for recalls at www.saferproducts.gov. I highly recommend you check any children’s products or pieces of furniture (i.e., cribs, dressers, strollers, etc.) you purchase secondhand, such as at a garage sale, or on eBay or Craigslist. While it is illegal to sell a product that has been recalled, many sellers do not check to see if the product is still safe prior to reselling them.
How do I keep up with all of the child product recalls? I just want to find a balance where I can enjoy raising my children and keep them safe.
As my husband and I prepare to welcome another baby into our family soon, I totally hear you on this. In today’s world, parenting can sometimes feel overwhelming rather than enjoyable. After Ted died, I honestly didn’t know if I ever wanted any more children because the world seemed so scary and unsafe. My advice? Don’t live to research, but research so you can live. By putting in a little extra effort as a parent to be aware of child product recalls and responding accordingly, you can enjoy your life and not live in a constant state of worry. Yes, accidents can still happen; there are no guarantees in life. But at least by keeping up with the latest recalls on children’s products and acting on them, you can be more secure in knowing you are doing everything within your power to create a safer household for your family. The best way to do this is to fill out and send in the registration postcards that come with many baby and children’s products. This ensures you will be notified directly if a recall ever takes place for the children’s products in your home.
Also, Safe Kids Worldwide has a place where you can sign up to be notified of any children’s product recalls. It’s a great way to stay aware of any dangers that are discovered in seemingly safe products. To sign up for their semi-monthly recall notifications, click here.
Resources for Parents
“Visiting Ted in Heaven” Reading and Book Signing
Monday, September 24, 2018 at 10:00 a.m.
Ivanhoe Public Library
401 N. Harold Street
Ivanhoe, MN 56142
“Visiting Ted in Heaven” Reading and Book Signing
Monday, September 24, 2018 at 2:00 p.m.
Tyler Public Library
230 N. Tyler Street
Tyler, MN 56178
“Visiting Ted in Heaven” Reading and Book Signing
Monday, September 24, 2018 at 6:00 p.m.
Lake Benton Public Library
110 E. Benton Street
Lake Benton, MN 56149
Tip-over Prevention Class Testimonials:
“Janet’s story was very impactful. I have been putting the anchoring stuff off because I’ve been so busy. Not anymore.”
“Appreciated the topic on anchoring. Topic not widely discussed.”
Below are some of the news releases where we chose to voice our concern over dresser tip-overs.