Teen pregnancy: breaking the stigma

A large stigma surrounds teen parents.  One that many do not rightly deserve.

Outsiders often make assumptions about the teens’ decisions. Statements such as “they are far too young to be having sex” or, simply, “how stupid do you have to be to get pregnant these days,” follow them around and hinder their success.  The lack of support leaves many teen parents homeless, jobless, and without an education. It leaves them without the opportunity to do right by their children. Mostly, it leaves them questionning their ability to parent.

Back in Dec. 2009, I began working with pregnant teens and teen parents at the North Clackamas School District’s P.A.C.E. (Parenting – Academics – Careers – Employment) program and it only took one day for my own assumptions to die hard. 

P.A.C.E. allows teen parents to finish out their high school degrees by offering resources, day care, parenting help, and a flexible education schedule. It provides opportunity and support for those who may have otherwise never have finished their educations.  But often, not even this is enough to help teen parents and their children survive.

That’s where the Madonna’s Center comes in.

As a non-profit organization in Milwaukie, based solely off volunteers, the Madonna’s Center relies entirely on donations, grants, and other community resources to meet the needs of the teen families in the entire Clackamas County area.  It survives without government support.  And it is one of a kind – no other organization like this exist in the entire United States.

The center provides essentials for around 75 teen families at any given time – including: diapers, clothing, food, blankets, cribs, and so much more (a full list of which can be found here).  Volunteers help teens parents find housing, jobs, medical help, educational opportunities, counseling, and transportation. 

The center’s most recent effort its largest fundraiser of the – its 4th Annual Hope Chest Sale. Volunteers hope to raise between $3,000 – $5,000 in order to keep running. Teen parents and volunteers alike have been searching for donations and promoting the fundraiser to no end. If the Madonna’s Center is not able to raise the money it needs, many teen families will be left with out essential support once again.

In a few short months I have seen a mother so protective of her newborn that the teacher had to drag her to class everyday. I have seen four parents earn their high school degrees. I’ve seen another determined to go to college to study psychology, and many more to become nurses. I have seen a young married couple, now with three children, succeed and come back to help other teen parents. I’ve been mistaken for another teen parent, only to come to the realization that they were only trying to offer me the same support they have recieved.

The teen parents involved in these programs are doing everything they can to provide their children with the life they deserve. They are doing everything they can to keep their families together and healthy. They are working hard every day to make it to the next. And they are asking for help.

So donate, volunteer, spread the word, or simply learn more. Do what you can to help teen parents break the stigma.

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~ by Jamilyn Mohr on July 9, 2010.

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