For pregnant teens, young moms and at-risk moms, there are serious daily challenges to face. There are also opportunities to share in the comradery and support of other moms who are experiencing the same journey.
Program Expands to 85 Participants
The YWCA is proud to announce that it has received a Community Connect Grant through MOSAIC Life Care to serve parenting teens and their babies. The new program will now be called Healthy Teen Parents/Healthy Babies and can serve up to 85 teen parents and their young children.
There are approximately 135 teen births in Buchanan County alone annually. Traci McChristy, YWCA St. Joseph, explains that the combination of support from peers, mentoring from adults and other services can help prevent teens from the loss of friendships and the loneliness that can set in – even helping ease depression and suicidal thoughts that can occur. “The mental health piece of this program is huge. Exhaustion, many appointments and the need to get services to help support the baby along with continued education and school requirements can lead to a tremendous amount of stress, which we would like to help offset for a healthier start and a healthier future.”
The grant officially began September 1, and will address the social determinants that affect access to healthcare, obesity prevention and mental health. The program will collaborate with a University of Missouri Extension Nutrition Specialist and a Missouri Western State University health/exercise science student intern in an effort to promote wellness for the teen program participants and their young children.
McChristy explains that the overall goal of the program is to improve health and well-being for teen parents and babies and reduce social isolation. To participate, teen parents complete an application for enrollment. They will then receive a newsletter for events, including information about monthly support groups and opportunities. Every second Tuesday of the month is the support group. Speakers include MU Extension representatives to talk about nutrition, healthy meal preparation and fitness for the parents. The YWCA will provide child care if needed.
Become involved with our once a month meeting.
There is an additional support group at the end of the month, on the last Thursday, called a Monthly Mentor Mixer. “We’re looking for mentors who have compassion and a caring attitude toward young parents and teen parents,” says McChristy. “It’s simple to help, and the activities are planned in advance for a once-a-month meeting. Mentors can choose to connect with their teen outside of the group if they wish, such as text messages or meeting for a conversation.”
Want to become a mentor?
Guidelines for Healthy Teen Parents/Healthy Babies mentors include that a candidate be 21 years old and pass a background screening. “It doesn’t matter if you’re already a parent, or you are an empty nester, or not a parent at all. We just need people to be positive and present once a month for the monthly mixer, then have a conversation once a week with their teen. It’s very rewarding,” says McChristy. “It’s not difficult and the YWCA has already prepared the schedule for engaging on a regular basis or they can meet face to face on their time. It’s also flexible. The goal is just to create the relationship.”