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With a grant from the Children’s Trust Fund (CTF), the Lincoln County (MO) Resource Board purchased Reality Babies this past year for use by school districts in Lincoln County.  Funds for this project were obtained from local sales of the CTF prevent child abuse specialty license plate.  CTF license plate funds were also used to purchase three other babies named Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Baby, Drug Affected Baby and Shaken Baby.  These babies can demonstrate the effects of drinking or taking drugs during pregnancy and what happens to the brain when a baby is shaken.

Reality Babies are the brainchild of Rick Jurmain who felt that teens did not receive the true effect of babies’ crying, middle-of-the-night feedings or crying caused by colic simply by portraying such through carrying eggs and sacks of flour.  The Reality Babies make the experience as realistic as possible, and everyone must treat the reality-like doll as if caring for a real infant.

Silex R-1 Schools was the first school in Lincoln County to use the Reality Babies.  The students took turns taking the baby home for the weekend.  The classroom instructor, Cheryl Kerns, extracted the data from each baby reflecting the care given during that time.  A Silex student commented, “I did not expect the baby to cry every two hours.” Another said, “I learned I had to adjust my daily routine to fit in with the baby’s.”  And a third student summed it up best, “Having a baby is very hard and time consuming.”  Mrs. Kerns said, “Overall it was a very good learning experience for them, and it is a good resource we can use now.”

Each “parent” participant must wear an ID bracelet so that care is monitored and recorded.  Reports can be generated on how long the baby cries, if mishandled or if appropriate care was not given.  The baby’s head must be supported by anyone who holds the baby as all forms of mistreatment are recorded, regardless of who is responsible.

The baby can be set for different levels of care based on real life schedules of fifteen different babies or on a pre-set mode of easy, medium, hard and custom.  There is also a daycare mode if needed.  Each baby comes with a bottle, change of diaper, change of clothes (if needed) and a car seat.  Four car seats to use with the Reality Babies were purchased from Wal-Mart, which generously donated an additional car seat.

One of the goals of the prevention project is to place the Reality Babies in each school.  Currently, Troy R-3 has five Real Care Babies that were purchased in 2007. With another school being added in the fall of 2008, additional babies will be necessary to accommodate all students.

Any agency or school (located in Lincoln County) interested in using the Reality Babies may contact Kristin Gentry at 636-528-8521 or Margie Cappel at 636-528-6117.