Breaking Cycles of Generational Poverty: Positioning Teen Moms for Success

In recognition of May being Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, we invited current AWF grant recipient Families First to discuss the importance of preventing teenage pregnancy and how it affects the lives of young women and their families.  Families First received funding for their TeenAge Pregnancy and Parenting Program (TAPP) as part of our 2015 Spring Grant Cycle.

Breaking Cycles of Generational Poverty: Positioning Teen Moms for Success

By: Dr. MiShawna Moore, Families First Senior Director of Programs

For many teenagers, motherhood is a role that brings a sense of frustration, inadequacy, or alienation. When you couple these issues with poverty, and limited family support, the needs go beyond education and health. About 4 million babies were born in the United States in 2014, out of which 250,000 were born to mothers ages 15 to 19.  Teen pregnancy and birth are significant contributors to high school dropout rates and perpetuate cycles of poverty as evidenced by the study completed by The Atlanta Women’s Foundation and The Schapiro Group.

According to the CDC, every state has seen a decline in teen births in every ethnic group. However, according to the latest figures from the Georgia Center for Adolescent Power & Potential (GCAPP), only 40 percent of teen mothers finish high school. Even more staggering is the Georgia Kids Count 2014 health indicator that reported 43.3 teen births per 1,000 (ages 15-19) for Clayton County and 33.2 for DeKalb County, respectively.

In order to help teen mothers become more than a statistic, Families First’s TeenAge Pregnancy and Parenting Program (TAPP) aims to meet their unique emotional, psychological, and physical needs. TAPP serves young mothers, ages 13 to 19, who live in low-income families and lack resources and support. We have seen that providing home visits, prenatal support, mentorships, and academic support assists these young women with exceeding their goals. Throughout the counseling process, TAPP takes a comprehensive approach which extends beyond the young mother to include her family and the father of the child. Engaging clients’ parents encourage them to be involved in the experiences with their child. The Parent Advisory Board allows parents to gain support from each other, in an experience that causes many parents to struggle with guilt. We know that teen dads also play a vital role in the development of their children. This emphasis on support is a critical part of the counseling process and increases young mothers’ likelihood of success.

During our 2014-2015 fiscal year, 100% of our teen moms returned to school within 6 weeks and 100% of eligible seniors (15) graduated from high school, with their original cohort. Thirteen of them are enrolled in post-secondary education and the remaining are active duty in the Air Force. For the 2015-2016 year, we currently have 8 teen moms who will graduate. Two moms graduated one semester earlier than planned and the remaining 6 will commence in May 2016 with their original cohort.

One of those who graduated early is Spinceerella Neal. Spinceerella graduated from Clayton County Open Campus High School this past December. Families First awarded Spinceerella with the Rock-Jennings Scholarship For Young Mothers at our 18th annual Dining for a Difference in March for her to pursue her college education at Clayton State University. Spinceerella is determined and motivated to provide the best life for herself and her son, Robert, by ultimately becoming an OB-GYN. When reflecting back on her experiences from TAPP, she said one of her most memorable experiences was the opportunity to attend the Steve and Marjorie Harvey Foundation’s Girls Who Rule The World Mentoring Weekend. Spinceerella also has a desire to give back to the TAPP program as a peer mentor to help other young women currently involved in the program achieve their goals.

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