Most likely to succeed
They don’t call it Planned Parenthood for nothing
“It was hard.” Rosario Rocha’s dark eyes grew even darker as she recalled the difficulty she faced as a 16-year-old single mother. “Because you’re so young and pregnant, people feel like they can judge you.”
And judge they did.
But Rocha found help and support in Teen Success, a program for young mothers that emphasizes education, parenting skills and emotional support while encouraging teens to delay having additional children until they’re ready for it.
Last week, Teen Success members and facilitators gathered to honor five of their own at a luncheon to celebrate the eighth annual Morgan Scholarships. Becky Morgan, president of the Morgan Family Foundation and a founding financial supporter of the Teen Success program, was on hand to pass out the awards and offer her congratulations to the scholarship recipients—and her support for the young moms.
“The goal is to make sure these teen mothers have a support system,” Morgan said. “These young women are working so hard to get ahead and to take good care of their children, and they deserve to get positive attention for it.”
Teen Success is one of a number of youth-education programs offered through Planned Parenthood Mar Monte. It’s also a very successful model for supporting teen mothers and assisting them to complete their educations while delaying additional pregnancies until they’re ready for a larger family.
Terrie Lind, associate vice president of teen programs for PPMM, coordinates Teen Success. The programs began in the San Jose area 18 years ago and have expanded to include a total of 21 groups within Northern California, including five in the Sacramento area, she told SN&R. “Each group serves 12 teen moms and their children,” Lind said. The young mothers provide support for each other, under the guidance of a trained facilitator, and take classes in communication, parenting, goal setting and conflict resolution. They also stay in school and learn how to plan their families.
“We’re only serving 12 teens at a time,” Lind said. “Some might say that’s a lot of money to spend on one teen and her baby, but because of this early and intensive education, we are avoiding a lot of other costly services for both the young woman and her child later on.”
Lind pointed to California’s teen-birth statistics. One in five women who have a child before age 17 will have a second child within two years. These repeat pregnancies never give the young parents a chance to get on their feet. Problems range from lack of education and increased reliance on public assistance to child abuse and long-term health problems. What’s more, the children born to these young women are more likely to become teen parents themselves.
Teen Success offers the support necessary for young moms to break out of the cycle and avoid becoming a statistic—along with their children. Only 1 percent of the young women in Teen Success in Sacramento have become pregnant again while in the program. What’s more, 90 percent of the teens graduate from high school and more than two-thirds go on to postsecondary education or training programs.
All this means more opportunities and fewer problems for both the young women and their children—not to mention fewer problems for society at large.
The five young women who received Morgan Scholarships are already well on their way. Amber Davis Vaden, Lanice Mixon, Mariana Coronado, Jennifer Short and Patricia Ule have all finished high school and are enrolled in postsecondary programs, with goals that include becoming nurses, dental technicians and stylists.
And Rocha? She studied math at Sacramento City College and is now a facilitator for Teen Success. She eventually hopes to become a high-school math teacher, and, at 23, she had her second child.
“When I was pregnant with my daughter as a teen, people would give me funny looks. They felt free to judge,” she said. Her second pregnancy was very different.
“I was ready. I planned for it and got to enjoy it. There was much less judgment of me, and because I’d waited until I was ready, people were happy for me.” That’s what Rocha wants to pass on to the teens in her groups. “I want to make sure that they have a place where they don’t feel judged.”