Safe Sitter program teaches valuable life skills

May 6, 2013

Youngsters in York and Adams counties are learning childcare and life skills via a WellSpan-operated babysitting course.

During the day-long Safe Sitter program, girls and boys ages 11 through 13 practice essential skills in lifesaving, first aid, feeding, and diapering.

An Indianapolis pediatrician created Safe Sitter after a friend’s 18-month-old choked to death while under a sitter’s care.  To help prevent future tragedies, the pediatrician designed a medically accurate babysitting program for adolescents.

The program has been credited with saving more than 150 lives nationwide since it began in 1980. 

In February, WellSpan was named a top 25 Safe Sitter site.

“Students are trained in CPR and relief of choking for both infant and child,” explained WellSpan instructor Adriane Burgess, MSN, RNC-OB.  “They’re not CPR certified, but they do practice on mannequins and are tested on these skills.”

The eight-hour day is divided into high-energy sessions of 30 minutes each, with a student-teacher ratio of just 6:1.  Graduates receive a Safe Sitter® certificate plus a babysitting kit with quick-reference manual.

“Parents have told me they’ve noticed a difference in how their child thinks about safety issues,” Burgess said.  “They become more protective and watchful of their younger brothers and sisters.”

The course also covers the business side of babysitting.  Students learn tips for finding jobs, and for discussing rates with prospective employers. 

“These are not just babysitting skills.  They’re life skills,” Burgess said.

Clinical quality manager Dianne Moore, MSN, RN, said working parents appreciate the Safe Sitter program because it gives them peace of mind.

“I can say from experience just how important it is to know that your kids are home and safe,” noted Moore, a mother of three. 

“With so many working parents, some of the childcare burden falls to the oldest sibling,” she said. “When the time came for me to decide if my daughter was ready to be responsible for her younger brothers, I would have welcomed a program like this.”

WellSpan introduced Safe Sitter to York three years ago and to the Gettysburg area during the fall of 2012.

“We’ve had so much interest from the community,” Moore said.  “Every time we schedule a class, it gets filled before we have a chance to promote it.”

The course, which has a fee of $65, is offered during summer and holiday school breaks.  For more information or to register a child, call 717-851-2241.