Monday, September 22, 2008

The ABCs of Supporting Young Moms

In September 2001, I was one of a dozen women waiting expectantly for the first teen mother to walk through the door. After working as a volunteer director of Hope Pregnancy Center for two years, I finally found a tangible way to meet the needs of teen mothers—through the launching of a Teen MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) weekly support group. The mentors grinned broadly when two teen mothers arrived for our first meeting. The next week we had four moms. The week after that, eight girls attended!

Now, two years later, twenty to twenty-five young moms attend every meeting, and we have over five dozen names on our roster. These young moms come to make a connection with others in the same life situation. They also learn how to be better moms and women by listening to encouraging speakers and meeting with personal mentors. During our two years as a group, we've seen a number of teen mothers finish high school. Some have chosen secondary virginity. The greatest result is that many have given their lives to Christ.

Because of the large number of attendees, we're currently planning to launch a second Teen MOPS group! How did we do it? Here are the ABCs of providing an encouraging and educational support group for young moms:

A Assemble a caring team. Many caring volunteers from our local PCC volunteered to help with the teen moms. Radio ads, community service announcements, and church bulletins helped spread the word and attracted volunteers. Former teen mothers, working moms, and even grandmothers from the community turned out. Those who believed in our mission and statement of faith soon found themselves holding babies and providing a listening ear to young moms in crisis.

B Be diligent in training yourselves about the needs of young mothers. Read books on teen parenting, talk to former teen mothers, and if possible visit other support groups to see what works. Get together with a teen mother, and you'll be amazed to hear about her unique challenges.

C Consider a young mom's needs. When planning our weekly meetings, we organize rides, meals, and childcare. We design fun games to introduce the young moms to each other, and we invite speakers such as alternative education teachers, job trainers, and child educators to provide informative talks. We also look for a neutral place to hold the meeting, such as a community center rather than a church.

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