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Published on December 15, 2008

Grants allows RealCare Parenting Program to continue in Linn and CR Schools

CEDAR RAPIDS-Two grants totaling $18,370 from the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation will allow a simulated parenting program to continue in Cedar Rapids and Linn County school districts.  The grants will pay for 25 new infant simulators for the RealCare Parenting program, formerly Baby Think It Over, an educational program for teenagers that involves the realistic simulation of parenting an infant.  The funding will also assist Young Parents Network (YPN) in training teachers and evaluating the effectiveness of the program.  Mercy Medical Center is the fiscal agent for the grants.

The new infant simulators, called RealCare Baby II-plus, offer advanced technology and a more realistic infant care experience than the babies that were used since the program's inception in 1993.  The current infant simulators, manufactured by Realityworks, require around-the-clock care, including feeding, burping, diapering, rocking, proper head support and positioning.  Software allows teachers to program babies, monitor simulations, retrieve data about students' level of care and calculate grades.  The entire experience is designed to help teenagers learn the impact of early parenthood on social and academic lives, emotional health and future goals, as well as to gain valuable parenting skills.

In 2007, Realityworks discontinued production and repair of older models of the infant simulators and limited school budgets did not allow for mass replacement of the babies.  This grant money will allow the program to be maintained and enhanced.  Additionally, the funding will allow YPN to continue to offer a loan closet of infant simulators to provide the program to rural schools and to supplement metro school inventories.

"Young Parents Network is pleased to be able to upgrade our current lending closet with the new infant simulators," says Crystal Hall, Youth Development Coordinator at Young Parents Network.  "Our lending closet has been in place for years and continues to be a fantastic free resource for educators and youth in our community.  We often hear comments from students who have had the babies in their homes that the experience of "parenting" is one they realize they are not ready for yet.  With the new updates and technological advances to the simulators, the experience is sure to be more realistic than ever before."

The 25 new multi-ethnicity infant simulators were delivered to YPN in early December.  From there, they will be sent out to schools for use in RealCare parenting units.

For more information about the RealCare Parenting Program, call Young Parents Network at 319-364-8909. 

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