Of the Baker City Herald

The students crowded around the babies, practicing their skills at picking up and cuddling an infant.

Some proved to be old hands from experience with younger siblings. For others, it was the first time they'd ever picked up a baby even if the infant was a plastic replica.

andquot;I'd never actually held a baby until now,andquot; said Cassie Laurence, 14. andquot;I learned a lot. I just kind of went along before.andquot;

Other lessons will come in handy, too.

andquot;The discipline thing I've never had to discipline a child,andquot; said Krystle Williams, 14.

Williams and Laurence were two of the thirteen students enrolled in a three-day baby-sitting class, offered by the Eastern Oregon Chapter of the American Red Cross They learned how not only to be attentive baby sitters, but also assertive businessmen and women.

andquot;You are going to be entrepreneurs so you can tell those parents why they should hire you,andquot; Christina Wood told the class.

Wood and Danae Simonski are volunteer instructors who taught the course under the supervision of Linda Hudson, Red Cross volunteer instructor and a nurse at the Baker County Health Department. Afterward, the two will be certified to teach the class on their own.

The students all received the andquot;Baby-sitters Handbook,andquot; watched videos and participated in discussions.

andquot;Baby sitting is a job,andquot; Simonski told the class. andquot;If you're going to set up a business, what's a good business practice?andquot;

The students starting naming off answers, including good organization, dressing appropriately, following instructions from the parents, and being reliable.

And a resume and family interview, Wood and Simonski added.

That's where the business end comes in, before the baby sitters even accept a job. The instructors encouraged the kids to visit with the family through an interview and find out if the job is really right for them.

The students learned that it's also a good practice to have a resume on hand, detailing their baby-sitting experiences, education and references.

These, coupled with the suggestion of wearing latex gloves when changing diapers, illustrate a change in the baby-sitting industry.

andquot;Red Cross constantly reassesses their stuff based on feedback from the kids who take the class. The part I try to emphasize is the safety of the baby sitter. They're taught to interview their clients,andquot; Wood said, which gives them confidence to turn down a job if they're uncomfortable.

Then, once they accept the job, there are other safety factors to consider.

The instructors emphasize the importance of checking the house for obvious dangers to decrease the chance of injury.

The baby-sitter's handbook supplies lists that sitters should fill out, including emergency information, contact numbers, the nearest cross streets in case they have to call 911, and allergies. There's even a section to leave with their own parents, recording where they'll be, the phone number, and their transportation.

The students were eager to ask questions during the course and discuss hypothetical situations, dwelling for a long time on what to do in case a burglar broke in, and what if the intruder cut the phone lines?

Wood and Simonski assured them this wasn't very likely, but said the refuge of a neighbor's house would be the best option.

In addition to these practical lessons in baby-sitting, students practiced basic first aid, under the direction of Hudson.

The student response to the class was positive, especially after they learned how to handle an infant.

andquot;We want to get these kids so they're safe around other kids. When you go to the class, you don't automatically pass. The certificate is going to mean something,andquot; Wood said.

All 13 students passed the course, having earned an 85 percent or higher after demonstrating their skills. Each Red Cross-trained sitter received a card, signed by Wood, that confirms they took the course.

Become a Red Cross-trained sitter

The Red Cross is also planning to offer a baby-sitting course afterschool at Baker Middle School, beginning the last week of April and through May. Wood and Simonski will be the instructors.

The course will meet twice a week for five weeks. The days of the week will be scheduled closer to the program start date. Participants pay a $5 fee, and the remaining $20 will be covered by a grant.

After the middle school course, the Red Cross hopes to offer similar programs at other local schools.

Wood said the Red Cross is also looking for organizations that could help sponsor students for the classes, and help with registration fees.

andquot;Not being able to pay the course fee is not a reason not to take the course. If you need the course, you'll get the course one way or another,andquot; she said.

For more information about these programs, call the Red Cross office at 523-2231, or stop by their office at 2020 Church St.

In addition to the word-of-mouth advertising that land baby-sitting jobs, there's another avenue available in Baker County signing up as a team provider at Baker County Child Care Resource and Referral.

While the Red Cross certification is not required, Baker County child care consultant Denise Raley said they suggest that team providers take the course.

The team provider system works like this: if Child Care Resource and Referral receives a phone call from a parent seeking a child care provider, they take down their name, number of children, and contact information. Then they call the team provider, who can decide whether or not to call the prospective client.

andquot;It's very, very safe,andquot; Raley said.

Team providers must be over the age of 13. It's free to sign up with the service, and then the providers can have access to a organization's lending library, scholarships for training, and more.

For more information about becoming a team provider, call Child Care Resource and Referral at 523-7838, ext. 28.