Imagine returning home after a date to domestic devastation -- Cheerios ground into the carpet, Sponge-Bob toys strewn throughout the living room, a sink full of dishes or, even worse, an injured child.
With just such a scenario in mind, the National Safety Council commissioned Brigham Young University professor Alton Thygerson to create an informational booklet and interactive CD-ROM course for parents and baby sitters. Called "Babysitter Lessons and Safety Training," the program is designed to prevent injuries by focusing on the fundamental "dos and don'ts" of baby sitter safety.
"Parents should naturally want someone trained in safety and first aid to care for the most important people in their lives," says Thygerson, a health sciences professor, who has written more than 40 books and manuals about first aid and injury prevention. "The need for baby sitter training is illustrated by the fact that the number-one cause of death in children is accident-related injuries."
And baby sitters aren't the only ones in need of training, says Thygerson. The BLAST course, which can be ordered online, includes ideas parents should consider when choosing a sitter and guidelines for dealing with them before leaving for the evening. Suggestions from the booklet include:
Before hiring the first Maryanne or Stephanie from the neighborhood pool of teenage baby sitters, find out how much experience a potential sitter has had with children. Ask for references to determine their level of maturity and trustworthiness.
Consider what kind of experience the sitter has had, and ask if he or she has been trained in first aid. Sitters should be familiar with CPR, rescue breathing and the Heimlich maneuver.
Determine guidelines and expectations regarding safety and house manners to ensure that your home is in good condition when you return from your time away. Provide a list of acceptable television programs, computer games and playtime guidelines.
Walk through the house with your baby sitter to locate the best exit route if a fire occurs. Designate a prearranged, safe meeting place for the children in case of an emergency. The BLAST booklet, small enough to carry in a shirt pocket or slip into a baby sitter's bag, is written in a conversational style with easy-to-read bulleted lists, diagrams and graphs. With colorful pictures and simple instructions, BLAST teaches baby sitters how to calm a crying baby, feed infants and change diapers.
Additionally, there is advice on promoting nutrition, coping with behavioral problems and dealing with strangers. Some suggestions from the booklet include:
Know the people for whom you are sitting before taking the job. It is not a good idea to post flyers in a public place with personal contact information -- you may receive unwelcome responses. Accepting jobs from a neighbor or relative is much safer.
Leave your parents with appropriate contact information and arrange for them to escort you home at the end of a job.
Understand what constitutes an emergency. "An emergency is an injury or sickness that may threaten a child's life if action is not taken right away," says Thygerson. "Remember that parents don't want to be bothered with incessant cell phone inquiries like, 'Can Tommy go outside and play?' or 'Sally says that her finger hurts, what should I do?'"
Ask for details about the children for whom you will be sitting. Do they have any food allergies or medical conditions? Parents will feel more comfortable with a sitter who asks questions concerning the care of their children.
Take a small first aid kit with you to any job just in case there isn't one in the house. Understanding safety, as well as following instructions from parents for baby sitter protocol, will result in a successful experience, says Thygerson.
After reading the BLAST booklet, 17-year-old Jessie Rasmussen, who has been a baby sitter for seven years, said, "The safety information was easy to read and had good illustrations. It outlined everything from dealing with asthma to insect bites. I think BLAST is a good resource for baby sitters, especially for younger kids who are just starting out."
Thygerson predicts great benefits for families and sitters who choose to read and reference BLAST.
"The goal of this booklet is to make baby sitters prepared for emergencies so that the risks of child injury and death can decrease," says Thygerson. "While the baby sitter might not be able to recall every bit of information from the manual, having the booklet with them in case of an emergency will be a very valuable and, perhaps, life-saving resource."
The BLAST booklet and CD-ROM are available by calling Jones and Bartlett publishers at 1-800-832-0034 or ordering from their Web site at www.emszone.com. They are also available online from the National Safety Council at www.nsc.org.
Writer: Hilary Smoot