July may be National Make a Difference to Children Month, but to youth organizations every day offers the chance to impact children’s lives in meaningful ways. “The afterschool world is all about enriching kids’ lives and teaching life skills in fun ways. Safe Sitter® is a perfect tool for this,” said Jeananne Reich, director of training at AYS, Inc., an Indianapolis, Indiana nonprofit that provides educational programs for children outside of school hours.
“Safe Sitter® offers practical knowledge that kids can use for a lifetime, and it’s taught with games,” said Jeananne, who is both an Instructor and Site Coordinator for AYS’ Safe Sitter® program. She also serves as a Safe Sitter® Ambassador to help spread the word about the program. This support of and desire to promote other organizations that are doing good work is the norm in the nonprofit world. In fact, it’s the altruism of a fellow nonprofit that made AYS’ Safe Sitter® program possible.
In 2011, AYS became a site after a Christ Church Cathedral Women’s Grant covered its startup costs. For the past 50 years, the historic Indianapolis church has held a strawberry festival with more than 300 volunteers serving six tons of strawberries and 18,000 homemade shortcakes! More than 95 percent of the event proceeds goes directly to local, national and international not-for-profit outreach groups.
AYS is grateful they were among those grant recipients, as Jeananne stresses how much Safe Sitter® was needed in her afterschool organization. She said when her own children were young and she was looking for sitters, she’d ask potential ones if they had taken a babysitting class. None of them had, and some even told her they didn’t know of any.
“I thought it would be all the better if they did have some extra knowledge and practice,” Jeananne said. “At that point, it made sense to me that my agency should be teaching this. We already had a training department that taught adults what to do, why couldn’t we do this for kids too?”
As the Safe Sitter® program fit so well with AYS’ mission, and Jeananne loves to teach, it seemed like offering babysitting classes was a natural thing to do. There’s another reason why it made so much sense to offer Safe Sitter®: it’s fairly easy for an afterschool organization to generate interest in the program.
“Since afterschool programs already have connections to the community and families through the school, it is probably easier to promote,” Jeananne stressed. “Students and parents are also likely to be more comfortable with a class held in the school building where they already spend a lot of time rather than going to someplace that may be new to them.”
Since afterschool providers work with children regularly, they also understand children’s needs for certain things such as including a snack time after school. Even though they work with children all day, every day, afterschool professionals are still constantly surprised by what children do and say.
“One of the coolest things about teaching is watching how quickly and how well the kids learn CPR. It amazes me how well kids do the skills in Safe Sitter® classes compared to the adults I teach in a regular CPR class,” Jeananne said. She is also always impressed by how well her students interact and share during discussions. One particularly memorable example occurred during the Safety for the Sitter section of class when one girl, who had no experience with guns, wondered why she would ever encounter one while babysitting in someone’s home.
“Without having a chance for me to answer, another student said, ‘Well, my mom is a cop, so we have lots of guns in our house.’ I couldn’t have explained it better myself!” Jeananne said.