With May being Mental Health Awareness Month and Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, we wanted to highlight one of our Promoting Women and Girls’ Mental Health & Wellbeing Project grantees, House of Dawn. House of Dawn provides a stable home for pregnant and parenting teen moms and their children under adult supervision. AWF funding supports House of Dawn’s expansion of their mental health care services, including mental health training for staff, mental health care assessments, and prenatal health care screenings. House of Dawn founder and CEO Dawn L. Murray shares how she began the organization and the work the organization is doing to support the mental health and overall wellbeing of teen moms and their children.
I established House of Dawn INC in 2005 in Clayton County, Georgia. As a parent educator, I assisted several young mothers who were homeless and uneducated. Previously, the programs in the area provided minimal assistance for young mothers and their children. Additionally, without proper resources, their children would be taken into state custody and raised in foster homes. While working with the young mothers, I found that there was a direct correlation between the socio-economic status of the young mothers and the increasing rate of pregnancies within the county. Therefore, by allocating proper resources to those in need, I established a program that would reduce adolescent pregnancies, by providing housing for the mothers along with educational programs, parenting classes and enrichment workshops.
The mission of House of Dawn is to provide a stable, loving, home for young mothers and their children under adult supervision, and to provide them with educational opportunities, and life training skills, that they will need to become independent, self-supporting women. The aim of all program services and activities is to reverse the negative consequences of teen pregnancy; reduce repeat pregnancies, poverty, low educational and academic performance and dependency on welfare; re-build self-esteem; enhance proper health and nutrition; reduce abuse, neglect, family violence; and promote family reunification by providing a number of services that focus on these achievable and measurable ends. House of Dawn programs are as follows – our Second Chance Home (SCH) serves teen mothers ages 13-19 that are in DFCS custody or homeless in a congregate living arrangement under 24 hour supervision in Jonesboro; our Transitional Housing Program (THP) serves homeless young mothers ages 18 to 24 and their children, who need supportive housing assistance in individual furnished apartments; and our Independent Living Program (ILP) services young mother’s ages 18-21 in a congregate living arrangement. Both ILP & TLP program oversight is provided by a Life Coach and Housing specialist.
Recently, as part of the supportive services that HOD provides, we continued to expand our services in the area of mental health care that is often times not being addressed with this underserved population. This will increase access to mental health services by being able to ensure that each family that enters our program will have their mental health assessed, and will continue to have access to much needed mental health services with the barriers now removed that previously prevented them from receiving services. It is estimated that 10-15% of childbearing women suffer from prenatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs). Without proper treatment, these illnesses can have long-term negative effects on the health of not just the mother, but the child and family as well.
Motherhood begins before conception with good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. It continues with appropriate prenatal care and preventing problems if they arise. The ideal result is a full-term pregnancy, the delivery of a healthy baby, and a healthy postpartum period in a positive environment that supports the physical and emotional needs of the mother and baby. Pregnancy and childbirth have a huge impact on the physical, mental, emotional, and socioeconomic health of women and their families.
The Founder/CEO of House of Dawn, Inc is Dawn L. Murray. Since 1999, Mrs. Dawn has worked with pregnant and parenting teen mothers in many different ways in the Clayton County, Georgia, and often encountered teen mothers in need of a safe haven for themselves as well as their children. Seeing what a need there was for a Second Chance Home in the Clayton County Community, Mrs. Dawn stepped up to the plate to make her dream a reality in May 2005 by founding the House of Dawn, a Second Chance Home for teenage mothers ages 13-18 and their children that now provides housing and family centric supportive services to pregnant and parenting youth.
Ms. Dawn now launches another dream to empower those with a like passion, who will serve those in our communities who need our support. As a Non-Profit Strategist for Non-Profit Success, LLC a for profit business helping non-profits succeed, Mrs. Dawn teaches non-profit leadership from start-up to sustainability; how to get the money; and how to keep it to new non- profit organizations.
Mrs. Dawn is also a member of the Clayton County Rotary Club, serves on the Board for CASA, and The Women in Business Executive Committee for the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce.