History of Safe Sitter®
Safe Sitter® began because of a tragedy. The accidental death of
a nurse's young child while in the care of an adult babysitter
prompted Dr. Patricia A. Keener, an Indianapolis pediatrician, to
create Safe Sitter®. In reflecting on her colleague's loss, Dr.
Keener recognized the vulnerability of young children when cared
for by unprepared providers. Safe Sitter® fills the gap by
increasing the availability of safe and nurturing adolescent
In March 1980, a mere two weeks after the tragic event, Dr.
Keener taught the first Safe Sitter® class at Park Tudor School in
Indianapolis, Indiana. That same spring, student classes were
taught at Community Hospital, where Dr. Keener was Director of
Three years later, Dr. Keener taught the first Instructor
Workshop in Indianapolis to train adults to teach children to be
better, safer babysitters.
Expanding its Borders
Safe Sitter® began to grow beyond Indianapolis. In the spring of
1984, the first Safe Sitter® student class was taught outside of
Indianapolis in New Albany, Indiana. One year later, Safe Sitter®
was incorporated as a not-for-profit organization and its first
Board of Directors was formed.
In 1987, Safe Sitter® received its first grant from the Lilly
Endowment, a three-year grant designed to take the organization
nationwide. In August of that same year, Dr. Keener trained Safe
Sitter's first National Trainers and, together, they wrote the
first Instructor Manual.
Burroughs Wellcome funding in 1988 sponsored a national
promotional tour by Dr. Keener. In March of that year, National
Trainers taught the first one-day Instructor Workshops outside of
Indianapolis resulting in the establishment of teaching sites in 28
states. National Trainers learned to deal with regional issues,
such as red ants in Texas, mountain lions in Montana, moose attacks
in Alaska, and earthquakes in California.
In October of 1989, Dr. Keener was awarded the Ross Lay
Education Award by the American Academy of Pediatrics for her work
as Founder and Medical Director of Safe Sitter®. The program began
to receive more national attention through a number of nationwide
television appearances by Dr. Keener:
- with Joan Lunden on Good Morning America (October
- with Maria Shriver on CBS This Morning with Maria
Shriver. (Summer of 1991)
- with Katie Couric on The Today Show with Katie Couric
- with Al Roker on The Today Show in June of 2006.
Growing and Changing
In 2002, Safe Sitter® began offering Continuing Education Units
(CEUs) through Indiana University School of Nursing. The following
year, Instructor training by video began to be offered to existing
teaching sites to enable them to conveniently train new
Instructors. A new environment brought new developments, among them
a revised curriculum including CPR in the 12 ½ -hour version and
the first video for use in student classes in 2008.
In 2010, Safe Sitter® welcomed its first assistant medical
director, Sara Lynn-Palecek Ross, M.D. In 2011, Dr. Ross
officially inherited the title of medical director from Safe
Sitter® founder and medical director, Dr. Patricia A. Keener. Dr.
Ross's first order of business was to provide guidance in the
development of Safe Sitter's new curriculum to be released in
January 2012. The curriculum, updated to follow the latest
guidelines of the American Heart Association and the American
Academy of Pediatrics, includes a convenient "1-day with CPR and
choking rescue" course option and was re-designed with a modern
flair to appeal to today's young teen. Dr. Keener mentored Dr. Ross
through the curriculum revision process and was instrumental in
helping guide her transition to the role of medical director.
Safe Sitter® continues to grow and provide innovation in
teaching young adolescents to be better, safer babysitters. Stay
tuned for more developments!