Extension adapts babysitter training to virtual format during pandemic

A participant enjoys a break in a pre-pandemic OSU Extension 4-H child care workshop in Gold Beach.

Quality child care remains in short supply in Oregon. A 2019 report from Oregon State University found that child care “deserts” existed in all 36 of the state’s counties. Dani Annala, 4-H program coordinator for the Oregon State University Extension Service in Hood River County, has been offering a certified babysitter workshop for several years. The workshop provides teenagers with tools to successfully care for children for short periods of time, has been effective for both entrepreneurial skill-building, and has become a pathway to early child care and education careers.

During the COVID-19 pandemic many youths have been positioned unexpectedly to care for younger siblings, neighbor children and extended family. In response, Annala redesigned the classes to a virtual format when OSU Extension suspended in-person programming to help limit the spread of COVID-19. She held workshops in July and August, and she co-hosted a workshop in August with neighboring Wasco County.

As a result, 38 teen babysitters were trained in the basics of child care including baby care, toddler care, healthy snacks, business tips, age-appropriate games, first aid and safety. Annala shared her curriculum with colleagues throughout the state. Sandra Carlson, 4-H program coordinator in Clatsop County, organized two statewide virtual workshops for 10-year-olds and up. Two-dozen Extension 4-H faculty taught a total of 156 youth representing 25 of Oregon’s 36 counties. Additional workshops were held that drew 20 attendees.

The virtual workshops continue to be held in 2021. In January, 70 teens were trained and 106 were registered for February.

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