By Meghan Schrader
For IN Fort Wayne publications

Lutheran Children’s Hospital Safe Sitter classes, open to ages 11 years and older, began this spring. The program teaches youth how to handle emergency situations when caring for young children.

Dr. Patricia Keener, who was working at an Indianapolis hospital, started the program in 1980 when the child of a nurse Keener worked with choked to death while in the care of an adult baby sitter. Within two weeks, the Safe Sitter program took root.

Lutheran Children’s Hospital adopted the program almost 20 years ago.

In the single-day classes, participants learn basic first aid skills, CPR and how to talk to an emergency dispatcher, as well as how to change diapers, how to be safe while using social media, how to find appropriate online activities for children and how to screen potential baby-sitting jobs to determine which ones are the best fit for them, as well as additional child care and safety information and skills.

A graduation ceremony takes place at the end of each class. Participants receive a completion card demonstrating that they know how to use their skills in situations they encounter and a Safe Sitter backpack/kit.

This kit includes a manual of all the information they learn in class and an important number file for parent information and phone numbers of anyone to call in case of emergencies.

The class focuses on the safety of not just the child but the baby sitter as well. Children learn what red flags to note and address before accepting a job and/or while on the job.

“We keep both sides, the children and the baby sitter, safe,” Safe Sitter Coordinator for Lutheran Children’s Hospital Lisa Pearson said.

Registration forms for the class as well as additional information can be found on the hospital’s website. Although staff prefer to have registrations completed two weeks before the respective class, Pearson will take participants up to the day of the class so long as the class does not exceed 24.

“We want to make sure that anyone that’s interested gets the chance to do this program because we are just so passionate about children being safer and learning to be better parents and baby sitters,” Pearson said.

Registration is on a first-come, first-served basis with the average class size being 10-13 participants and average ages between 11 and 14, though they have had and welcome older participants. Each class costs $60, which includes the Safe Sitter backpack, but participants should bring money for lunch.

Additional information as well as registration forms can be found at lutheranchildrenshosp.com/classes-for-kids or by contacting Lisa Pearson at lpearson@lhn.net or (260) 435-2699.