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COUNTYWIDE : Providing TLC to Drug-Exposed Babies

The white bassinet in the nursery at Orangewood Children’s Home rocks from side to side, comforting the premature, drug-exposed baby inside with the quiet sounds of a mother’s heartbeat and blood rushing through veins.

Orangewood has only one such bassinet, but each month about eight babies enter the county home in Orange for neglected children suffering painful withdrawals from the drugs their mothers used while pregnant.

So several county justice departments have organized bake sales for today and Wednesday outside the County Courthouse in Santa Ana to raise money for additional bassinets. Each bassinet, which is called a “Nature’s Cradle,” costs $2,000.

“The cradles are such a blessing,” Orangewood program manager Mary Harris said as she checked a baby sleeping in the bassinet. “The babies get more sleep and are more stable. They eat better, because if they’re agitated they just spit it all back up.”

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The computerized bassinets simulate the conditions of the womb, with soft bumpers holding them snug and the rolling motion adjusted for less frequent movements at night and more during the day, when a pregnant mother is more active. The cradle also emits the sounds of the womb.

Harris said Orangewood especially would like to have more of the bassinets to lend to foster parents who care for drug-addicted babies.

“Here we have 24-hour staff,” she said, “but the foster parents need sleep.”

Brea resident Ruth DeVries has cared for dozens of drug-exposed infants in her 32 years as a foster parent. She said the babies are generally cranky, restless and inconsolable--until they lie in the special bassinet. “It’s incredible,” DeVries said. “The baby I have right now was born premature at only one pound and now she’s doing just beautiful. She settles down in it.”

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Employees from the Superior Court, the Municipal Court, social services, and the marshal, district attorney, county counsel and probation offices are all participating in the sale, which will run from 7:30 a.m. until noon at the courthouse main entry in the Santa Ana Civic Center, on Flower Street between Santa Ana Boulevard and Civic Center Drive.

Each group hopes to raise enough money to buy one cradle.


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