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SCHOOL DAYS : Credentials in Baby - Sitting

September 12, 1993|Jennie Nash

Advanced degrees aren't just for academic types anymore. To get ahead in Los Angeles, even a baby-sitter needs a stellar resume. The savviest are flocking to American Red Cross training courses, like Supersitters at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Torrance.

"We teach kids everything from first aid to how to negotiate with adults for the hourly rate they want," says instructor Katherine Sprague. "We use videos and role-playing, we assign homework and visit the newborn nursery. It's serious job training."

During a recent session, Sprague stood in front of 12 rapt students, a baby mannequin laid before her. "Now this is very important," she booms. "When diapering a little girl, you must always wipe front and back." The kids--half of them boys--snicker and roll their eyes. But when Sprague passes out mannequins and Huggies and asks if there are any questions, hands shoot up.

"How often do they need to be changed and how do you know when it's time?" asks Kevin Harrel, a 14-year-old sporting long bangs and even longer shorts.

When the students have learned the answer to that and other questions during their eight hours' worth of classes, they receive a Red Cross baby-sitting certificate. Flashing this, graduates say, is as good as a list of references.

"When I first started," says Allison Decker, 14, "it really helped me get jobs. It made the parents feel more comfortable. And it gave me a lot of self-confidence."

It also gives them a little wage leverage; teens say they can earn as much as $5 an hour. "I made $42 last weekend," boasts Larisa Reznicheck, 13. "What you want is a regular job where you're always called first. I'm trying to get that."

Aren't we all?

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