It is often said that it takes a village to raise a child, but in one young woman's case, it has taken multiple programs to help her create a healthy family.
At sixteen years of age, Rachel gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. Getting pregnant wasn't exactly in her plans but when she saw the ultra sound of her baby and heard the baby's heartbeat it changed her entire attitude and she says "It was instant love."
Her first point of contact with Options Community Services was with the Family Development Response and Quick Response Programs.
Family Development & Quick Response Programs
The Family Development Response (FDR) program engages families in a cooperative solution focused process to resolve low to moderate risk issues. The intent is to improve parenting knowledge, behaviours, and family dynamics to enhance the quality of family life through education and support. The Quick Response Program (QRP) is an intensive 4-6 week service for high risk families which works to reduce the risk of child maltreatment by changing behaviours and increasing skills of parents.
You guys changed my life. I have now gone back to school to become an LPN and am very excited.
Because of Rachel's young age and her lack of a stable support network of family or friends she was referred to the QRP staff. Two or three times a week a QRP worker would visit Rachel at her home to see that she was looking after herself and the baby and while she didn't like this involvement at first, she now realizes how very beneficial it was.
Of the 316 participants in FDR and QR programs in the last year, 97% reported that the service they received helped them deal more effectively with their concern. One woman comments, "You guys changed my life. I have now gone back to school to become an LPN and am very excited."
Another participant commented that she really enjoyed the program a lot and it made her feel like a better mom as a result of the new things she learned .
One young mother said, "I was very happy with the way I got help; it gave me the confidence to be independent and live on my own."
While Rachel's baby was in foster care they became involved with the Supervised Access program which gives families time to spend together with supervision of staff. The immediate goal is to increase family capacity to interact with each other in an engaging, positive and pro-social manner. The long term goal is to have children who have been removed from their parents/caregivers returned to live with the biological or natural parents.
I'm a new mom so I might not be doing everything I should be but I'm trying really hard. She's the most important thing in my life now. The only thing I would change is that I would have been older and had a better education before having a baby.
Family Strengthening & Intervention Program
Rachel also had the opportunity to participate in the Family Strengthening and Intervention (FSI) program which works with families on parenting education, promoting safe and healthy home environments, and works towards preventing child removal from the home.
My FSI worker gave me counselling on my own and then with both me and my mom so that she could learn how to parent a teenager with a baby. That was really great because my worker was a young mom too and could understand all the stuff I was going through.
"I love my baby very much," says Rachel. "But it's hard to be a young parent. Teen parents can be good parents if you give us a chance but we still have to go to school too."
Rachel had never made it past grade eight and had always attended alternate schools.
I was a mean and horrible kid and I was angry at everything. That's why I never made it through high school.
Growing Together Daycare
But that's changing now. Tammy Dyer, who was the Manager of Growing Together Daycare and is now Associate Executive Director at Options, met Rachel at a particularly difficult Supervised Access visit and intervened by fast-tracking Rachel into the program. With the help of Rachel's social worker, Tammy arranged for Rachel to see her daughter at the Growing Together Daycare while she attended classes at Guildford Park Secondary School.
Growing Together (GT) supports teen mothers to return to school and complete their grade twelve education. Lucy, a long-term staff member at GT daycare says it's an ideal situation because the moms are on location with the kids. They get to spend lunch time together, they are called down to nurse their babies when needed, and both mom and child have so much to learn and take advantage of here."
The GT daycare provides primary care giving which means each young mother is attached to one staff member which they connect with throughout the entire year. "It means that we act as role models for these mothers."
The high school graduation rate of young moms who participate in Growing Together is 90 percent.
For Tammy success means, "We have helped to break a cycle of abuse, we've given the moms confidence in their ability to parent, they leave with a sense of connection to the community and their extended family, and we've given them support systems that family and friends have not been able to provide."
Wait, we're not done!
Young Parents Subsidized Housing Program
The housing program attached to Growing Together allows for thirteen mothers to receive a subsidy from BC Housing while they are attending school and working toward their goals.
Rachel and her mother have both been on Income Assistance and their housing situation was unstable. But in order for her baby to be returned to Rachel's care, that needed to change.
The GT outreach worker managed to secure a comfortable three bedroom suite close to the school. "My mom and I could never have gotten that without the help of everyone at Growing Together and the rest of the programs at Options Community Services.”
I’m optimistic now and excited about our future. I know I can do this thanks to all the support I have now