Xpress, the Coolest Section of the St. Petersburg Times, is the home for features, news and views of interest to young readers. Most of the work in Xpress, which appears on Mondays in Floridian, is produced by the Times' X-Team. The team of journalists ages 9-17 from around the Tampa Bay area is selected every year at the end of the school year to serve during the following school term. The current team of 12 was chosen out of 150 applicants. Watch for X-Team application forms in Xpress during the month of May.

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This isn't kid's stuff
Babysitter class
[Times photos: Kinfay Moroti]
Future babysitters Michelle Rosica, 11, of Dunedin, right, and the Gutierrez sisters Isabel, 13, and Ana, 11, practice feeding techniques on toy dolls at the American Red Cross in Clearwater

By ALLY SIKORA, X-Team Correspondent
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 14, 2003

The American Red Cross course teaches children 11 and older everything from how to handle an emergency to how to hold a child.

CLEARWATER -- You've seen the image of the grandmotherly type babysitting the kids while the parents are out. Or the teenager who spends more time on the phone than watching the kids.

But those stereotypes are a thing of the past. Today's babysitters take the job seriously. And the American Red Cross helps them by offering a Babysitters Training Class for children ages 11 and older. Last year, 648 kids took Babysitter's Training in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties. And talk about breaking stereotypes: About 10 percent of those taking the class are boys.

Instructors pack 12 hours of information into two days, teaching everything from how to handle an emergency when you're alone in the house to how to interview perspective clients.
Isabel Gutierrez, 13; Janie Hoffman, 12; Michelle Rosica, 11; and Bethany Wylde, 13, react to a babysitting story told by their teacher.

The class, which costs $42, teaches the five major themes of babysitting: leadership, safety, basic care, first aid and business. A babysitter can show leadership by always making sure you and the children are safe, respecting the children, communicating with the parent or guardian and making decisions carefully.

Maria Ladd, a Red Cross instructor since 1976, has had years of experience in first-aid training. Ladd became interested in training when she was a student in Mexico. "Right near Mexico, in Guatemala, an earthquake killed many people because their concrete houses fell on them," Ladd said. "Few people knew first aid, so I decided to learn and teach it to others."

Ladd taught the first class and began by talking about what to do before a babysitting job. The babysitter should visit or call the family and ask lots of questions.

What are the rules of household play?

How do you handle misbehavior?

Are there any pets that you need to care for?

What does the family do in case of a fire?

What things are off-limits for the kids?

Do the kids have any allergies to food?

When is bedtime?

When you're at the house, walk around and put away anything that looks dangerous or ask a question about it. And make sure that the rate you charge is okay with the family.

Babysitters must get emergency numbers, like the cell-phone number of the parent or guardian and the phone number of the place they will be. Even get the address and number of a helpful neighbor in case there is an emergency.
Allison Laney, 12, left, and Isabel Gutierrez participate in a memory exercise in order to learn to retain information accurately.

The second class was taught by Kathleen Rummler, who discussed first-aid care, including bandaging, rescue breathing and what to do if a child or infant is choking.

A babysitter should always put safety first for themselves and the children being watched. Class participants learn about foods that cause choking, electrical hazards, fires, bleeding, suffocation, poisoning, burns and wounds.

Hygiene, such as washing hands after changing diapers, also is important. Care for babies is taught by using dolls, and by reviewing the proper ways to hold a baby or toddler during bottle feeding and sleeping.

"I never knew there were so many holds for a baby," said Janie Hoffman, 12, from of Tarpon Springs said. "One of the new holds I learned was called the football hold, where you hold the baby with one arm."

Another student, Bethany Wylde, 13, of Dunedin said, "I was surprised at some of the foods babies aren't supposed to have, like honey because of the bacteria that might be in it."

Babysitters also are taught to make up a "safety phrase" with their parents before going to any job. If the sitter feels uncomfortable at any time, she should use the phrase so that her parents will come to get her. The phrase should be simple, like "Mom, I forgot to feed the dog." Then if something happens, the sitter can call her parents and use the phrase.

Students get hands on experience by practicing rescue breathing with mannequins and learning how to dress wounds with gauze pads and roller bandages to stop bleeding. To be professional you should always tell parents if an emergency happened, especially if you have to call 911.

-- Ally Sikora, 12, is in the seventh grade at Coachman Fundamental Middle School in Clearwater and is a former member of the X-Team. Ally recently took the American Red Cross Babysitters Training course.

* * *

To find out more about the American Red Cross Babysitter's Training classes, visit the organization's Web site at www.redcrosstbc.org. You must be 11 years old or older to participate. You can register online for classes which are offered all year throughout the Tampa Bay area. You also can call the Central Registration Office at (813) 348-4820 ext. 850, or call toll free, 1-877-741-1444 ext. 850.

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