Grant to fund services for teen mothers
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 17, 2011 1:46 PM
Wayne County is one of five counties that has received a state grant to educate and service young mothers.
Officials say the number of teen mothers, and the growing rate of subsequent additional births, have prompted a greater need for education and services for females between the ages of 13 and 24.
Wayne County's three-year grant, which runs through August 2013, is designed to fill that need.
The Partnership for Children of Wayne County is the lead agency for implementation of "Young Moms Connect," assisted by WAGES, Cooperative Extension and the Health Department.
"There are a lot of repeat parents. There's a lot of young women who have subsequent pregnancies in Wayne County," said Cassie Kermode, director of the program. "The whole focus is to try to help them attain the goals that they have in their life.
"Maybe they had a child young but that doesn't have to stop them from going to college, getting their high school diploma, attaining parenting skills."
The main focus of the grant is to create self-sufficiency for the young mothers, Mrs. Kermode said.
This is accomplished by several means -- WAGES works with home-based visits, targeting at least 15 families; Cooperative Extension introduced "Parents as Teachers," also working with 15 families; and the Health Department is providing referrals and case management services to an estimated 300 clients.
"The home-based visiting model is very one-on-one and very personal," Mrs. Kermode said. "Those girls get visited and have a very strong connection with the social worker.
"One of the things, and the whole reason why it's called Young Moms Connect, is because we have found that Wayne County has so many strengths. Many times it's just making that connection. We have referrals coming from the hospital, from churches. We're just trying to strengthen the infrastructure."
The connection piece is an important one, she pointed out, especially for this young segment of the population.
For them, the first step is going to be education.
"We teach prenatal classes at all seven high schools as well as a couple of middle schools," Mrs. Kermode said. "Our numbers have shown that there are a lot of girls with subsequent pregnancies. It's an area that needs to be addressed."
She said she is aware that offering such classes in the public schools could be considered controversial, but that doesn't change the fact that teen parents are prevalent across the county.
"I feel like for those that might oppose the idea of this, we do focus very much on becoming self-sufficient," she said. "I think the programs that are here today, (provide for) a better tomorrow for them and their families.
"Recently, there's a woman who comes in and works with the prenatal classes and she herself has declared that if it were not for programs like this, she would not be as successful now."
In addition to keeping the young women focused on staying in school, staying healthy and keeping that child healthy, other components are to provide tangible incentives for them -- from bus passes and gas cards to offset the need for transportation to provisions for themselves and their children.
"One of the cool things that we have been able to do is set up a mommy closet or 'Mommy Mart,'" Mrs. Kermode explained. "As these girls go through their prenatal classes for instance, they have the opportunity to gain the tools that they need to be a parent and also self-care items."
Technology is also being utilized to broaden the base.
Young Moms Connect of Wayne County has a Facebook page and a website, www.youngmomsconnect.com, which also includes information about parent education classes, support groups and activities. They can also follow the program on Twitter @Moms_Connect.
Another free service is "text4baby" or text4baby.org, which offers free messages via cell phone to help through pregnancy and the baby's first year. Mothers can text MOMS to 36263 with a question and within 24 hours get a response, Mrs. Kermode said.
The option has already proven to be very popular, she added.
"North Carolina was No. 1 for weeks and weeks on young moms signing up," she said.
A workshop is also being planned for Nov. 9 from 9 a.m. 3 p.m. at WAGES on Royall Avenue. Health educators, home-based visiting workers, mentors, peer educators and faith-based community members who currently work with young men and women are invited to attend the training.
For more information, or to RSVP, contact Mrs. Kermode at 735-3371 ext. 230 or firstname.lastname@example.org.