Baby Think It Over Dolls adopted in Muncy
MUNCY – Adopted by several agencies and home economic departments in various schools, the Baby Think It Over Dolls have been used since 1995 to help teens make better choices and more healthy decisions, especially when it comes to pre-marital sex. This was the main reason why Linda Egli, Family and Consumer Science teacher at Muncy High School decided to purchase the dolls. For these aren’t ordinary dolls. They are computerized with a chip that mirrors the needs of a real baby. Not only do they resemble a human infant weighing about six and a half pounds, but they are programmed to sound and act like a real baby with several crying options. According to Egli, it is up to them to figure out what the baby needs, if it needs fed, burped, a diaper change or rocked. “They have two minutes to figure it out,” she said. This experience is designed to give young students a strong awareness of knowing what real parenting is like. “They learn some things,” Egli added.
The dolls are now called ‘Real Care Baby’ but were the brainchild of Mary Jumain who owns a production company in Wisconsin with her husband who oversees new product development. The dolls used to be controlled by a key, but now they are simulated digitally for attention and care from its temporary teen parent.
The dolls are pricey, about $675 each, said Egli. “But now they do a lot more.” A computer print out is also given out to indicate when the ‘baby’ needed care.
The school program is an elective and 11 students took the class last semester. Starting in ninth grade, Egli said she averages about 20 students a year who choose to participate in the ‘Care Baby’ experience. Not only is child care involved in the curriculum, but financial management as well. “They need to learn what it costs. One half credit per semester is given for this class,” Egli said.
Boys also enroll in the class, but usually do the minimum. “They can get 100, if they do 100 percent care. They’re not as excited to carry babies around,” replied Egli.
Students learn basic child care and pre-natal care. For example one of the units is on Shaking Baby Syndrome. “We also discuss brain development and how to talk and interact with your baby versus neglect and lack of care,” said Egli.
Julia Garverick said she was able to choose the doll she wanted. It came with an infant car seat and carrier. She added some clothes. “The first night I got some sleep from 12 to 7,” she said. “This gives me the reassurance for what I was thinking; never to be a teen parent. I want to think about my life first, then have a baby.” She and fellow student, Sondra Willow took their babies with them to an Easter Egg hunt at their church in Clarkstown. “The babies are with us 24/7,” said Willow. “It may be fun at first, but when it cries, it’s hard to figure out what it wants. Sometimes, I have to keep rocking it until it stops.” The girls also said that they each wore a wristband to let the baby know that the mother was there to help it.
If a doll is mishandled or broken, the student is liable for its replacement cost of $150 if it needs to go back to the company. If it is general maintenance then the school district covers the fee. Egli said that so far in the 14 years she has been doing the program, only 6 had to be returned. “Sometimes there could be a malfunction, such as crying for an extended time,” Egli added.
The dolls come in either gender, and students can choose from Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian, African-American, Light-Skinned African-American, and Native American appearances. Program extension products to make the parenting experience more realistic include a stroller, diaper bag, infant car seat and carrier, birth certificates, and T-shirts.
When asked if this is a total prevention program for teen pregnancy, Egli replied, “No, but it helps the students make healthier choices. They can see parenthood from the eyes of the child, and assume the role as a parent.” The program gives teens information for choices that might be permanent and affect the rest of their lives. Although girls are still getting pregnant at 14, studies and research from Planned Parenthood have shown that the program has lowered the amount of teenage pregnancies.