Fort Stockton High School students are being given the chance to learn about the responsibilities that come with raising a child.
Irene Ramirez teaches child development at the school in the hopes of showing the teenagers how hard it is to be a parent.
The class aims to show students the work that goes into caring for a baby in the hopes that they will wait before having a child of their own.
Students start the class by learning the different stages of pregnancy from conception to birth.
They do other lessons involving feeding, including the difference between formula and breast milk.
During the year they have an “egg baby” for a week, during which they have to care for it while insuring it is not broken.
“They care for it as if it were their own baby,” said Ramirez.
The students are required to have their baby with at all times, even in class.
If they have an extracurricular activity like sports or a club, they not only have to arrange for a sitter, but must also train the sitter.
Enrollment in the elective class has been steadily growing over the years.
Ramirez says she has 70 students this year, six of whom are boys.
Each student has an opportunity to take home one of the RealCare babies, but they must take turns as the program only has 20 of the babies.
The babies have a way to alert the teacher if they are mishandled, mis-fed, or if they cry for an extended period of time.
The students have to take the babies with them everywhere, including the store. Students may not leave the babies unattended in a car because they can be mistaken for a real baby.
When Ramirez first started the class in 2017 they only had six babies to share among the students.
The RealCare babies cost $849 each. Additional costs are incurred for the needed accessories.
The students who have completed their prerequisite work are the first to take care of a baby.
“They have to show me that they are responsible, I still have some that think it's a joke but it's not,” she said.
Spending and changing
The class covers the cost of raising a baby, including diapers, health care, and formula in addition to everything else a baby goes through.
“They need to know this so they are a little prepared,” said Ramirez. “They will know what to expect when they start their families.”
The RealCare babies grade them on how they did rocking, changing diapers, burping and feeding.
Students get points deducted for shaking the baby, not giving proper head support, holding them in the wrong position and rough handling.
Each student is given an ID tag that only works for their baby so they can't switch or have help from other students.
The babies also cry during the night, during classes, and at other inconvenient times.
“They're getting the full experience,” she said.
Ramirez said it teaches the students to multitask and to attend to the baby quickly so they don't disturb others.
She said many students come to her the next day crying about how hard it is and how they can't do it.
“It's not easy, it's not a game,” she said.
She said she has had some teen moms in her class, or students who say they want a baby, but after taking her class they realize they aren't ready.
Ramirez also gives the students another perspective since she was a single mom, showing them just how difficult it can be.
They also have a fake pregnancy belly that the students wear for a day to realize the physical changes involved.
Overall, the class shows the teens every step that goes into a baby from conception to pregnancy to having a full blown child.
“I think it's a good program for our school,” said Ramirez.