Safe Sitter® Speaks a Universal Language

Safe Sitter’s key concepts are timeless. They’re boundless too because they teach universal lessons that resonate across cultural lines. Site Coordinator and Instructor Vicki Fitzpatrick sees this firsthand in the Safe Sitter® classes St. Clair Hospital teaches to Pittsburgh’s large refugee population.

Vicki, a pediatric nurse and nurse educator, has taught babysitting classes to Pittsburgh’s youth for years. However, it wasn’t until she joined St. Clair Hospital’s staff that she began teaching Safe Sitter®, and witnessed how successfully the curriculum was introduced to refugees from two settlement areas within the hospital’s service area. The population, mostly from Nepal, Bhutan, Burma, Thailand, and Latin and South America, were relocated to the area by the Catholic Charities organization.

St. Clair Hospital has been able to reach refugees through a partnership with South Hills Interfaith Movement (SHIM), an organization providing food, clothing, and services to people in need in Pittsburgh’s southern suburban neighborhoods, where the highest concentration of refugee families live. Recently, SHIM youth workers provided van transportation to the hospital for 16 refugee youth from South Hills so they could take a Safe Sitter® class.

“The youth leader stayed throughout the program, fostering comfort and meeting specific student needs,” Vicki said. “The students were eager to learn, patient with our communication barriers, and enjoyed the information and the gifts provided.” Three of St. Clair’s five Safe Sitter® Instructors have assumed the job of teaching refugees. Obviously, the students speak many different languages, and while most have a good understanding of spoken English, they struggled to read the content in the Student Handbook. This is where it helped to have Instructors who are flexible!

“It was important to just go with the flow of the class,” said Vicki. “We played games to teach and reinforce the content. And the exam was done orally. The community liaison personnel were instrumental in facilitating the success.” The class may have been taught a bit differently for these students, but the reasons why they took it were the same as any other student. At the beginning of class, the Instructors made a point of asking the students why they wanted to attend.

“Several were in class because their mother was having a baby and they wanted to help with the care. Other students said they wanted to be safe when caring for other people’s children,” Vicki said. After class, one of the older students even stopped to chat with the Instructors, asking why Safe Sitter® is limited to ages 11-14. “She thought that many older students (15-17) would benefit from the content of the program,” said Vicki, whose favorite part of teaching Safe Sitter® is hearing students’ comments, especially insightful ones such as this.

“When the students make the connection between Safe Sitter® content and their own experiences, it is always amazing to see the “click” on their faces,” she says. “Teaching Safe Sitter® is always a rejuvenating event.”

Safe Sitter

Founded in 1980, Safe Sitter® is the only national nonprofit training program exclusively devoted to preparing young teens in grades 6-8 to be safe in unsupervised settings, whether home alone, sibling sitting or babysitting.