RealCare babies introducing students to challenges of parenting

Every year some ninth graders take home babies. The RealCare babies. 

Students in Child Development get them for one weekend. Each student gets a car seat, a diaper bag, a bottle, two changes of clothes, a blanket, two diapers and a wristband that they have to keep on all weekend. FCS teacher Jacqueline Bakker has been doing the RealCare babies for five years, but Cedar Falls schools have been doing this for longer. 

“I did not know that FCS courses were offered at my junior high or high school when I was in school,” Bakker said. “I wish I would have been exposed to more classes related to FCS content such as Child Development, Interior Design, Interpersonal Relationships and Culinary Skills. I would have taken the class if the courses were promoted because I think it helps teenagers understand that caring for a newborn is often a single-sided relationship in the first month.” When the RealCare baby is abused, it will cry loudly for one minute.  During that time students are only able to care for it by rocking it. 

“The FCS team has developed a rubric based on two aspects,” Bakker said. “The first is the quality of care the baby received.  Each baby reports to the teacher on how many times it needed cared for and how many times it was cared for properly.  The teacher can also see data on the temperature and length of time the baby was left in the car seat.  Students are also graded on proper handling. The program reports on shaken baby, head support, wrong position, rough handling and other types of abuse.” 

The RealCare Baby program aligns with various FCS standards related to parental readiness, so Bakker does not foresee a change in the curriculum anytime soon.  

Students are finding that parenting can be challenging. “The weekend was awful,” freshman Kelsie Koskie said. “When she cried and I couldn’t figure out what was wrong, I just did nothing. I wanted to throw the baby out the window sometimes.”

During the time Koskie had the baby, she slept through it a few times. The baby cried mostly at night.

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