Training program puts kids in safe hands

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 11, 2001

Features Editor

The anxiety that often results from leaving children in the hands of a baby sitter can be relieved by leaving them in the hands of a "Safe Sitter," said Terry Watkins, health awareness coordinator for Edge Regional Medical Center.

"Knowing their children are in the care of a young person who can provide safe, nurturing care for young children and who can respond appropriately to medical emergencies is very comforting for parents," Watkins said. "The purpose of the Safe Sitter course is to increase the availability of young adolescent babysitters who can provide that kind of care."

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The course targets 11 – to 13-year-olds in recognition of the fact that, at this early age, young adolescents are routinely sought as baby sitters.

"Course content and teaching techniques are developmentally appropriate for middle school learners," Watkins said.

A group of 16 adolescents at Covenant Christian High School will complete the Safe Sitter course Monday, Dec. 17 after having demonstrated the mastery of the key concepts of the course by passing a written exam and by displaying competency through hands-on activities.

"Safe Sitter strives to enhance the lives of young adolescents by providing them with the opportunity to acquire competencies in rescue skills, basic first aid and safe and nurturing child care techniques," Watkins said. "Safe Sitter utilizes only certified instructors for student instruction, ensuring high quality and compliance with teaching methodologies."

Teaching methodology includes hands-on mannequin practice in rescue skills, small group interactive learning, role playing, games and interaction with a toddler or preschool guest.

The curriculum includes preventing injuries, injury management, preventing problem behavior, behavior management, care of a choking infant, care of a choking child, rescue breathing, safety for the sitter, child care essentials, success on the job and babysitting as a business.

"Each participant must pass a written exam and demonstrate acceptable skills in care of the choking child or infant and rescue breathing," Watkins said. "In addition, participants are required to demonstrate the ability to apply injury and behavior management techniques and self-introduce skills."

There are many additional benefits to the adolescents, including enhanced self-esteem, introductory employment skills and a number of safe habits and life skills.

"The long-term goal is to prepare young people for their future responsibilities as parents," Watkins said. "Safe Sitter believes in the intrinsic worth of all children from infancy through adolescence. We believe in the importance of protecting the health and welfare of children during periods of vulnerability. We believe in the value of providing young adolescents with the life skills important for safe and responsible child care and self care."

Watkins said, in general, inadequate emphasis is placed on the magnitude of the responsibility a young adolescent accepts when accepting a babysitting job.

"Most young adolescents lack the knowledge of first aid, rescue skills, behavior management techniques and life experiences necessary for handling medical, behavioral or household emergencies which might occur," she said. "Successful completion of an educational program addressing these competencies should be a community standard for child care providers of all ages."

Safe Sitter is committed to a policy of availability, affordability and acceptability. In order to include children from low-income families, scholarship are available.

For more information, contact Terry Watkins at 670-5261.