Safe sitting: Classes aim to prepare future baby sitters for almost everything
JANESVILLE You're new to town and need a reliable baby sitter while you and your spouse attend a company holiday party.
As new parents, you have no idea where to start.
Amy Carey, community education coordinator for Mercy Health System, said the best way to find safe sitters—who won't have friends over without permission, eat everything in the house or spend all of their time texting—is by word of mouth.
"I don't think people are out there calling strangers to come and watch their kids and not knowing what to expect. Neighbors and family feed off each other and pass on experiences," she said.
In addition to coordinating instructors for Mercy's safe sitter classes, Carey lines up course instructors and occasionally teaches.
Carey said safe sitter training is in demand.
"Our class sizes are usually eight to 12 kids. I've been doing this for six years, and attendance is pretty consistent each month with the exception of summer vacations, when we sometimes see a bit of a dip. We rarely have to cancel a class because there's not enough kids," she said.
Safety to scheduling covered
During the two-day course, kids learn:
-- Baby-sitting as a business—how to charge and how to advertise services to only friends and family members.
-- Safety for the sitter—what to do in weather, fire and other emergencies.
-- Success on the job—being prepared, dressing appropriately and putting dates on the family calendar.
-- Child care essentials—the needs of children of different ages, including toileting, naps, food and activities.
-- Injury prevention and management—what to do with bruises, scrapes, insect stings and calling 911 for serious injuries.
-- Infant and child CPR—how to perform CPR for children of different ages.
-- Infant and child choking—foods and cooking safety.
-- Problem behaviors—what to do to prevent problem behaviors and how to handle them if they occur.
'A little extra money'
Some kids come to the safe sitter class with little or no experience, and others have younger siblings or cousins they have watched or helped watch, Carey said.
Scott Pilgrim, 11, Janesville, took the July safe sitter class and baby-sits his 8-year-old sister four hours a day while his mother, Ann Pilgrim, works.
"I wanted to make a little extra money so I could afford something like a go-kart," Scott said.
Shelly Jones-French encouraged her 12-year-old daughter, Jaida Jones, to enroll in the course.
"I wanted her to be aware of safety issues and know first aid and CPR if needed," Jones-French said.
Although Jaida hasn't had to use any of her first aid or CPR training skills yet while baby-sitting a family friend's 10-month-old, she said it makes her feel more confident on the job.
"I take the packet of information from class with me just in case something would happen," she said.
Scott said he found strategies about how to advertise his baby-sitting services to friends and family members most helpful. It gave him the courage to tell a family from his sister's softball team he is baby-sitting and certified in CPR.
"I told them to give me a call if they ever need a baby-sitter," he said.
Jaida enjoyed the class so much she's even told some of her friends about it.
"They want to start baby-sitting, so I thought they should try it. It helps you learn the safeties of baby-sitting," she said.
Scott is waiting for his first opportunity to land a new baby-sitting job. When he does, he said, he'll be prepared.
"When you learn CPR and the Heimlich maneuver, you go away from class knowing if you had to go into that situation you'd be able to save a life before the paramedics got there and prevent someone from dying," he said.
That's what the classes are all about, Carey said. They teach the knowledge, skills and confidence to safely care for infants, toddlers and school-age children and how to respond to emergencies and make decisions under pressure.
Local baby-sitting classes are offered through:
Mercy Health System
-- From 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on these Saturdays and Sundays: Sept. 17-18; Oct. 8-9; Nov. 5-6; and Dec. 3-4. Classes held at the Henry Palmer Building (formerly Mercy Assisted Care), 903 Mineral Point Ave., Janesville: Cost: $45. Students ages 11-13 must take a sack lunch. To register, call (608) 756-6100 or visit MercyHealthSystem.org.
American Red Cross
-- Course teaches youth ages 11-15 the knowledge, skills and confidence to care for infants and school-age children. Participants learn how to respond to emergencies and illness, make decisions under pressure and recognize safety and hygiene issues. Cost: $85. Babysitter's Training PLUS is a baby-sitting training plus infant and child CPR and standard first aid certification program for youth ages 11-15. Cost: $95. To register, call (608) 232-5840 or visit arcbadger.org and click on "Take a Class."