Think about how lucky a community is to have Safe Sitter®. Young teens have access to an education that gives them the confidence to babysit or stay home alone. Hardworking parents have a resource that allows them to safely leave their older children to care for younger siblings. Now think about what a community without Safe Sitter® is like. Phoebe Baquera lived in such a community, and when she thought about what a difference Safe Sitter® could make to her neighbors, she knew she had to act.
Phoebe, an administrative assistant for Life Fellowship Church in Fort Morgan, Colorado, has literally had a connection with Safe Sitter® since she learned to walk. Her grandmother worked at Banner Health and was friends with an Instructor when the classes were first being taught there. The Instructor was looking for a toddler guest and Phoebe had just moved in with her grandmother, so her grandmother suggested Phoebe. Although she has no memory of that class visit, she does recall taking the 2-day course years later with her best friend.
“I remember CPR and first aid the most. I’ve used all of the skills since I took Safe Sitter®,” said Phoebe, who began babysitting right after she graduated from Safe Sitter® at age 11, and now has four daughters. She also remembers a particular babysitting situation with a two-year-old girl who wouldn’t stop screaming, and one of Safe Sitter’s messages reassuringly coming back to her.
“I tried all the techniques to make her happy but this little girl refused to cheer up,” Phoebe said. Since she didn’t want to call the girl’s parents, she called her own mother. “My mom couldn’t calm her down either so we had to call her mom. I clearly remember thinking how Safe Sitter® taught me that it’s okay to call for help.”
Phoebe thought about Safe Sitter® again when her oldest daughter was younger, but since her daughter wasn’t the right age to take a class, she put the idea of babysitting classes aside until later. “I honestly thought all communities had a babysitting program but I was wrong,” said Phoebe, who approached many different agencies about a course only to find that none were offered. She then approached her Mothers of Preschoolers (MOP) group, the only mothers’ group in her area, and suggested starting a Safe Sitter® program, but they weren’t interested. So, Phoebe talked to the pastor at Life Fellowship Church and started a Teaching Site using her own funds.
“They’re open to anything community oriented. They’ve been very supportive. There’s nothing in our community for middle school aged kids, period,” said Phoebe, who serves as the Site Coordinator and an Instructor. The closest Teaching Site is 45 minutes away and there are few daycare options in Fort Morgan, which means that Safe Sitter® could make a real impact on this town of 12,000, most of whom are kids. Even in this small town, a second middle school, larger than the high school, has just opened.
“We’re considered a ‘daycare desert.’ Kids who take Safe Sitter® will help in the long run because they’ll be able to babysit for families that don’t have options,” Phoebe said. “Many Fort Morgan families live in poverty because only one parent can work. This really affects the kids.” Life Fellowship Church charges $20 for their Safe Sitter® classes and offers scholarships for families who struggle to pay. Together, four Instructors will offer 1-2 classes each per year. The Teaching Site taught its first class in March during Spring Break.
Phoebe plans on having all four of her daughters complete a Safe Sitter® class. Her oldest, 12, graduated from the Spring Break class, but Phoebe wants her to take it again. “She took it more to work on life skills, and she’ll take it again as a refresher,” she said. She envisions her second oldest using what she learns to babysit. “She’s very nurturing and mature for her age. Every kid is going to get something different out of it. The kids seem to really love it. I’m excited for the new curriculum because I’m still trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t.”