New Program Making a Big Difference for Teen Parents

The Teen Parent Outreach Program is new to Bridges of Hope in the past year. This program is a collaborative effort with Crow Wing County Community Services who approached us last year to help them expand this successful program and work alongside more teen parents (receiving cash assistance) to increase successful outcomes for them and their little ones.

There are a number of challenges teen parents face. For example, they are more likely to give birth to low birth weight or premature babies, be involved in the child protection system, drop out of high school, and live in poverty. They are also less likely to seek out proper prenatal care, and to follow through with well child checks & immunizations for their children. Through this program, I am working with more than 20 teen parents and their children to minimize these challenges.

The primary goals we are working on with the mothers are:

  1. Ensuring prenatal care is received.

  2. Increasing birth weight.

  3. Carrying to full term.

  4. Preventing subsequent pregnancies.

Other goals include:

  1. Keeping children safe by reducing child protection issues.

  2. Empowering the teens to graduate high school and/or obtain their GED.

  3. Making sure the children are up to date in immunizations and well child checks.

  4. Increasing the strengths in parents and lowering risk factors.

Good news! Teens involved in this program graduated from high school a rate of 51% (the state average for teen moms is 30%), AND 84% of the teens who participated in the program were not on cash assistance one year later.

I have been honored to help expand such a wonderful program to reach more teens and offer more in-depth services. Emily and Megan’s stories are great examples of how this program is changing lives:

Emily’s Story:

Emily struggles with her mental health and originally came onto my caseload while she was pregnant and applying for disability. During our time working together, she was denied disability benefits. While I was concerned this would  discourage her, it did not. Instead, she made the choice to begin looking for work and obtained a part-time job at a local restaurant. During this time, she also attended her prenatal care appointments.

On November 19th, her son, Matthew was born full-term and weighing a healthy 7+ pounds. She stayed in great contact with her employer and went back to her job six weeks later. I assisted her in applying for daycare assistance and getting all the necessary paperwork filled out for Matthew.  Unfortunately, her daycare provider was not approved by the county. She is still in the process of trying to obtain childcare, but I have been impressed in the meantime by how resourceful she has been in finding a trustworthy person to care for her son while she is at work.

I have seen Emily change so much since the birth of Matthew. As I mentioned earlier she has some significant mental health struggles, and I had concerns about how she would adapt to less sleep and the demands of caring for a newborn. Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised, and being a mom has helped give Emily a purpose and reason to get up in the morning. She seems happier and more determined to keep her job and provide for Matthew.

Megan’s Story:

Megan hasn’t been to the dentist for many years, if ever. Through our work together in the Teen Parent Outreach Program, it was a part of her case plan to go to the dentist. (She likes to say that I am forcing her to go, however, I’ve really only strongly encouraged it!) About five months ago, I sat with her at Starbucks, her favorite coffee shop, and we made dentist appointments for her and her two-year-old daughter, Eva. She was able to get Eva in without a problem, however, an adult on MA (Medical Assistance) is much harder to get in to the dentist. She ended up being able to make an appointment at the Central Lakes Community Dental Clinic and I committed to bringing her there for moral support (and because transportation is a huge barrier for this family).

The good news is that Megan finally went to the dentist! The bad news is she had 11 cavities and one tooth that needed to be pulled.

A couple of months later, Megan has gotten eight of those cavities filled and continues to go to her appointments. The neatest part of this story is that little Eva has already been to the dentist at age 2 and Megan is so proud that she is passing on better habits to her daughter. Eva brushes her teeth every night, and, of course in true 2-year-old fashion, wants to do it herself! I truly believe that Megan does not want Eva to go through what she is experiencing right now. It is exciting to see the impact this program is having across multiple generations.

Thank you for helping us build Bridges for families like Emily’s & Megan’s!

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