Cassiey Smith holds a CAPA robot baby simulator.  Josephine von Dohlen | Collegian
Cassiey Smith holds a CAPA robot baby sim­u­lator.
Josephine von Dohlen | Col­legian

In an effort to shed light on the respon­si­bility of par­enting to teens, Hillsdale’s own Child Abuse and Pro­tection Awareness orga­ni­zation brings the RealCare baby program to local class­rooms.

Aligning with each high school’s spe­cific cur­riculum, CAPA loans robot baby sim­u­lators to indi­vidual teens for a weekend, giving them the oppor­tunity to have extensive hands-on expe­rience in caring for infants.

These RealCare babies weigh eight pounds and are loaded with extensive sensors that check to see if the student pro­vides proper care for the baby.

The set­tings on the baby allow for the student to expe­rience as many real life cir­cum­stances as pos­sible. The babies need to be changed, fed, and burped on a fairly fre­quent basis, and will even wake the student in the middle of the night for attention. These advanced sensors will even notice if the baby has been left in a car seat for extended periods of time.

The sim­u­lator babies come at a high price of about $1,000, which includes acces­sories such as a carseat and diaper bag loaded with all the sup­plies a student might need.

Christie Campbell, exec­utive director of CAPA, receives com­puter reports of the student’s inter­ac­tions with the baby at the end of each weekend. Those reports will tell her the number of things that the student missed, in addition to any reports of abuse. The babies will shut down under abuse of any kind. If the student does not support the baby’s head at all times, abuse may be detected.

While the RealCare baby assignment directs its efforts toward child abuse pre­vention, the teenage preg­nancy pre­vention factor also comes into play.

“I think it gets in a little bit of both,” Campbell said. “The stu­dents get a very real life expe­rience and it is not an easy thing.”

Debbie Price, con­sumer sci­ences instructor at Reading High School, teaches a par­enting class that focuses on essential edu­cation ele­ments for par­enting, since teens have often not been brought up in the best envi­ronment for par­enting.

Price said the RealCare baby assignment is more about under­standing the care involved in raising a child, and teaching young adults about this life-altering respon­si­bility.

Price has been teaching this unit for about 30 years. Before CAPA came in about 15 years ago and donated the babies, they would send stu­dents home with eggs or sacks of flour for the weekend instead.

15 year old, sophomore Juliet Faby said she was kind of scared when she received her baby boy for the weekend.

“I don’t want to not support it, espe­cially because this is a real life sim­u­lation and it’s worth a lot of points,” Faby said.

Alli Mischke, also a sophomore, agreed with Faby.

“I’m excited, but not excited about the crying because I like sleep,” Mischke said.

The stu­dents at Reading High School cared for their babies well, aver­aging about 88 percent. Campbell said that CAPA places their goal at 80 percent, and most of the time the classes meet the goal.

At the end of the long weekend of childcare, Campbell said that most stu­dents are quite eager for her to take the babies from them.

“I find a lot of the stu­dents tire of the baby at the end of the weekend, ” Campbell said. “They say things like, ‘You can have these back.’”