Students become parents for the weekend

News 12 at 6 o'clock/May 8, 2011

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C.--Some North Augusta teens are busy being parents this weekend. It's all part of a hands on program making some teens think twice about parenthood.

A new health department survey is saying teen pregnancy in South Carolina is up by 20%.

Sex educators at North Augusta High School want to change that so more than 25 students brought home a simulated baby for the weekend.

18-year-old Andrew Smith, a senior, is unfamilar with the loud crying sounds of a new born baby.

"It woke me up all night and I had to take it everywhere," said Smith. "People were giving me very strange looks."

Andrew is in a class called Real Life 101, at North Augusta high school. He says everyone in the class got a real care baby. It is designed to look, feel, sound and respond like a real infant.

"They told us that we going to have to change it, feed and burp it." said Smith. David said his class received various sex education classes before they could take home the infants.

"The teens get the real feeling of what is like to take care of baby and be a parent without a lot of the ick," said Susan Meehan. Susan is a sex educator for Aiken Youth Empowerment. She said many boys and girls who were in the real care baby program admit that they want to remain abstinent and practice safer sex.

"In the beginning many of the teens are excited to take the baby home, said Meehan. "At the end of the program they are are thrilled to give the baby back." Each student is given a wristband with a sensor. When the babies cries, they must wave the sensor on the wristband to a sensor on the baby.

Susan said the numbers of teen pregnancies between the ages of 15 and 17 are growing in Aiken County. She believes an investment in teen pregnancy prevention will eventually have a ripple effect in the community.

"Birth rates and teen pregnancy has decreased across the Unites States," said Meehan. " In Aiken County it hasn't decreased as much as we would like to see." Susan said sex is still a topic some parents have a hard time discussing with their children.

"It's that time of the year again when we are talking about sex education and puberty," said Meehan. There is always some fear around it, but there are different ways to talk to our children."

Andrew Smith's father, Kevin watched his son take care of the the simulated baby this weekend.

"I feel like my wife and I have an open relationship with Andrew and our other kids," said Smith. Kevin said he is supportive of the real care baby program, but thinks it's only a start.

"The program is not sufficient enough, but is a good component towards lowering the rate of teen pregnancies."

Meanwhile Andrew, after this weekend, will go back to being a teen. He is getting ready for college next year, but has a message for his fellow students.

"Trust me it was not fun," said Smith. Andrew said he gives a lot of credit to young parents, but he simply is not ready for parenthood.

All of the students in the Real Life 101 class will be returning the simulated babies on Monday morning. They will be graded on just how well they handled the infants.

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