August 24, 2011; FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Kathie Norwood, Executive Director
“United Way of Eastern Maine supports
RealCare® parenting in Hancock County”
The Downeast Children’s Council, a program of Downeast Health Services Inc., is pleased to announce continued financial support from the United Way of Eastern Maine to provide the RealCare® parenting program to students in Hancock County schools. The
Downeast Children’s Council RealCare® parenting program provides middle school and high school students throughout Hancock County with an opportunity to learn how to appropriately care for an infant in order to prevent injury and neglect. Since
2001, over 2000 students from 23 Hancock County community schools have participated in this 48-hour simulated parenting experience using computerized life-like infants.
The purpose of the Real Care® parenting program is to give students the knowledge they need to make informed decisions about parenting. Using an evidence-informed curriculum, the program explores the emotional, financial and social consequences of parenting and is intended to help teens understand three important facts: 1) Infants require a great deal of time and attention, 2) Infants’ demands are unpredictable, but must be met promptly; and 3) parenting responsibilities impact one’s lifestyle profoundly.
Why do we partner primarily with 8th grade classes? Eighth
grade is the last intact class of boys and girls that have the opportunity to learn together about empathy and understand how it relates to caring for children. This experience teaches adolescents about the damaging effects of child abuse, and how to appropriate care for an infant in order to prevent injury and neglect. These skills are important to provide teens that care for younger siblings, become babysitters, or young parents, with the correct response to a crying baby.
Prior to the 48-hour parenting simulation, teachers instruct the students in how to safely hold, feed, burp, bathe, and change an infant. Students are taught the basics of infant physical and mental development, how to provide a safe environment for an infant and how to properly install an infant car seat. Students may also have the opportunity to experience the “Empathy Belly”™, a unique resource that simulates pregnancy through the use of a rib belt and the strategic positioning of various weighted components. The computerized infant provides detailed information about the care that Baby receives. At
the completion of each parenting experience, the school coordinator downloads the data from each computerized infant and notes the outcomes for each student.
To enhance the parenting simulation curriculum, we also provide demonstration babies that show the effects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and drug abuse during pregnancy. The stark contrast between a normal baby and drug-affected baby has an immediate, visual high impact on participants; and the delayed response to care requires students to exercise extreme patience. Our new computerized “Shaken Baby Syndrome” demonstration infant is designed with a transparent head that clearly defines the traumatic brain injuries caused by abusive head trauma. When the simulator is shaken, affected sections of the brain light up to illustrate where brain damage has occurred. Combined
with a curriculum that helps establish a plan for coping with an inconsolable baby, we are learning that this experience remains with participants for a long time.
As the only county-wide program dedicated to keeping children safe, the Children’s Council is uniquely situated to provide a consistent program, using specialized materials that are beyond the capacity of most schools to invest their limited funding. We are in a position to monitor the program use by our many school partners, implement recommendations for improvement, and share our findings with all participating schools.
Small rural schools do not have the resources to purchase these materials for their own use, and are challenged to contribute any funding for this program. As Hancock County schools experience declining enrollments and shrinking school budgets, we have saved local schools over $200,000 by purchasing these materials to be shared by all communities, rather than having each school purchase their own materials, a cost-saving effort appreciated by municipal leaders annually. The
Children’s Council offers this program to all Hancock County middle schools and high schools. Reservations
for this program are on a first-come, first-reserved basis by calling Jamie Brooks at 667-5304 ext. 261 beginning September 1st, 2011. Please visit our website at www.downeasthealth.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn about RealCare™ parenting, other parenting workshops and classes, support groups, and family resources available in Hancock County.
The United Way of Eastern Maine works with local community partners for meaningful and lasting change that improves the lives of people in our region. For additional information, contact United Way of Eastern Maine at 207-941-2800 or visit their website at www.unitedwayem.org.