Teens learn safety, job seeking in Red Cross class
By Kyle Peveto
Advocate staff writer
July 20, 2012
At 14, Gabrielle Deer has done enough baby-sitting to know she needed a little training.
Watching her younger brother on a regular basis provided few thrills, but once, when her little cousin suddenly became sick and required a trip to the hospital, she was alarmed.
“I was scared something serious was going to happen,” Deer said.
Everything turned out fine that day. Deer called her dad, who knew what to do.
Entering her freshman year at Baton Rouge Magnet High School, Deer said she plans to do a lot more baby-sitting in hopes of saving money and earning a little financial independence. She asked her parents to enroll her in the Red Cross baby-sitting training course, a $140, two-day class that teaches the business side of the job alongside the safety aspects.
Students learn to write a résumé and network to find jobs, but they also become certified in CPR and practice saving a choking baby.
“It makes me feel comfortable, so that if anything happens when I’m baby-sitting, I can help,” Deer said.
On the second morning of the training, the 16 girls listed on an erasable board all the things they wanted to buy with their baby-sitting wages — laptop computers, iPhones and decorations for their rooms. They all wanted to learn about the earning potential of baby-sitting, which has traditionally allowed teenage girls — and some boys — a chance to earn extra money during their free weekends, nights and summers.
Soon after writing résumés and learning how to charge for their services, they crouched on the floor next to CPR dummies and practiced their chest compressions.
“They learn that they are responsible for a person’s most valuable possession,” said Louis Hicks, the Red Cross training coordinator who has taught the course for 11 years. “They have one job — to keep that child safe.”
Most students come to the course with a few fears, Hicks said. He often allays those feelings by assuring them that they actually know what to do. When a student asked, “What do we do if the baby runs out of food?” He asked the girls what they would do. Most said they would call the child’s parents — the correct thing to do, he said.
“They have some of the same fears that adults have,” Hicks said, “but they lack the confidence that they can respond.”
A survey from the Red Cross found that 77 percent of parents thought teens should receive training before they begin baby-sitting. Eight out of 10 said sitters with training should earn more.
“I had a baby-sitting course when I was younger, and that was the difference between getting a job and not,” said Nancy Malone, the public affairs officer for the local Red Cross. “It was if you had that card.”
Near the middle of the teens’ second day of training, Hicks led them through the proper technique of feeding an infant. They held their baby dolls and propped their bottles up at 45-degree angles, then all walked around the room with the dolls laid across their shoulders to burp them.
Then Hicks threw in a pop quiz.
“He’s burping, he’s burping,” Hicks said, wandering from student to student to watch technique. “Now, he’s beginning to choke!”
The girls looked panicked for a second until they each dropped to one knee to begin giving gentle blows to the dolls’ backs with the heels of their hands and palm thrusts to their chests to stop the choking.
“Now he’s crying,” Hicks said with a smile, “so let’s go feed him again.”
The morning session involved practice picking up infants and toddlers and diapering dolls.
Ally Randall, 11, learned things she said she had always seen done, but never tried herself. She also became aware how serious sitting can be. Randall probably won’t start sitting for a couple of years, but she is glad to learn the basics.
“I didn’t know about safety with kids,” Randall said. “I didn’t know they were that energetic. You always have to keep an eye on them because they can disappear in an instant.”
In the afternoon the students sat through mock interviews with Hicks. They presented their résumés and tried to present themselves as responsible teens.
In his lectures, Hicks tries to impress upon them that they do not have to accept every job. They can reject those offers that don’t pay enough or require too much hard work or long hours. He also teaches them to never advertise, only to network through connections with family and friends they trust.
Advertising online, while easy, is dangerous.
“You never know who’s going to respond to that,” said Veronica Spicer, 14. “Their intentions aren’t always very good.”
Spicer, whose family is moving to Adelaide, Australia, later this summer, plans to find baby-sitting work in her new country by networking with her stepfather’s connections at his university. It will take a few months, but Spicer said she hopes to earn enough money to pay for fuel for a car when she starts driving.
“It’s going to be difficult,” she said.
As lunchtime on the second day of training neared, the students began to bug Hicks about their test scores. They take tests throughout the course on the skills they learn and must pass to receive a certification card.
Over the course’s 16 hours, Hicks and Malone said they see a change in the students.
“They feel confident,” Malone said. “They have these skills, and they have the confidence it takes to go out and care for the children.”
The Louisiana Capital Area Chapter of the Red Cross will have two more baby-sitting classes this year, Nov. 19-20 and Dec. 27-28. Call (225) 251-4533 for more information.