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Professional Corner

Baby Project Teaches
Consequences of Drugs and Alcohol

By Nicole Jackson, Yuma Sun Staff Writer

JoAnn Miranda gets angry every time she thinks about the shaking crack baby she held in her arms not long ago.

No matter what she did to calm the baby, it continued to shake and cry in a shrill voice.

Luckily for her, the crying baby was a battery-operated doll designed to stimulate a real baby who is addicted to drugs and alcohol. At the end of the day, the batteries come out.

Miranda, who has a one-year old daughter, finds it hard to believe that anyone would put a child in danger.

The 19-year old senior is one of five students at the Educational Opportunity Charter High School learning about the effects on babies when mothers use drugs and alcohol during pregnancy.

The crack baby is a new addition to the Baby Think It Over stimulators, which were developed in 1992.

The dolls hit the Yuma area schools last school year for use in the child development classes and to prevent teen pregnancy.

This year, students are being introduced to the drug babies.

The purpose of using the drug-stimulated dolls is to raise awareness in students about what happens if they are on drugs when they are pregnant, said Kathy Watson, chairwoman of the Baby Think It Over project.

"We want them to see the long-term impact of caring for a drug-addicted baby."

The drug babies are 3 to 4 pounds smaller than the original babies, their cries are more shrill and their bodies tremble to stimulate withdrawal, Watson said.

"Your natural instinct is to hold and hug a baby in distress, but these babies are sensitive to touch. You have to hold it away because the more you hold it, the more it cries."

The babies don’t need to be fed, bathed, or changed, but students said the dolls still provide a realistic situation for them.

"It’s harder to control the cries of the drug babies than a normal baby because the drug babies cry all the time," said Tracy Ortiz, a classmate of Miranda. "You have to comfort it a lot."

Ortiz, 18, who is also a teen mother, said it’s sad to see the drug-addicted babies, real or not, because it makes her think of her own baby. Using the doll serves its purpose, she said.

The drug babies have been used at the four charter schools in Yuma, but have not made it to the public schools yet, Watson said.

Students are not allowed to take the drug-stimulated dolls home because they are easily damaged, she said.

The drug dolls, which were originally purchased through a grant for Child and Family Resources last fall, were donated to the Baby Think It Over program in January. The program is a two-year project, run by the Alpha Delta Kappa Sorority of Teachers.

The program is supported by nonprofit agencies and individuals, Watson said, adding that some sponsors not only offer to purchase dolls, but the necessities that go along with caring for a baby.

The program has three drug babies and three normal babies, each of which costs about $300.

"We are trying to start a lending pool of 10-15 dolls so that anyone who wants to check out a baby can do so," Watson said.

Although the main idea is to provide the dolls for classes and youth organizations, the ultimate goal is to put them in town for community use.

The dolls can be used for teaching baby-sitting skills, as well as for couples who are thinking about having a baby.

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Last modified: January 26, 2013