Cheerleaders from birth and beyond
The state of Texas has consistently ranked among the top five states with the highest teen pregnancy rates in the nation. In the region of McLennan County, this amplified teen pregnancy rate is even more palpable than in urban areas such as the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
As an organization committed to helping the youth of Waco succeed, Youth Connection has implemented programs such as Teen Mother Visits.
A Youth Connection volunteer visits teen mothers who gave birth at the Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center. During the visit, Youth Connection provides information to mothers on resources in McLennan County that they might have otherwise been unaware of.
“I feel very, very strongly about this program and how much it helps our teen mothers,” Youth Connection Director Carolyn Nichols said. “It helps them realize services that are available to them that many, many times they do not realize are in the community.”
Youth Connection’s Teen Mother Visits also provide emotional support and encouragement to the young mothers as well. Former Youth Connection volunteer Kellie Jarrard said the support Youth Connection volunteers offer to new teen mothers is usually not found at home.
“Sometimes we are the only cheerleaders who go into those hospital rooms and tell girls that they have options to finish school and pursue a career,” Jarrard said. “I just think that’s so special.”
The Teen Mother Visits program aims to help teen mothers succeed in all facets of life. During a typical visit, Youth Connection volunteers assess a mother’s needs by gathering information such as whether or not it is the mother’s first child, school enrollment status and the involvement of family and the child’s father.
Depending on the circumstance, the new mothers are then provided pamphlets and phone numbers to services and organizations that can be of assistance from the birth of their child and beyond.
Services a volunteer may cover include where to find health insurance, how to file child support or where to get a car seat. Volunteers may also walk a teen mother through paperwork and forms required to apply for any of those services.
Volunteers for the Teen Mother Visits program generally come from Baylor University, McLennan Community College and occasionally Waco high schools. However, a volunteer may just be someone from the community who is drawn to the work of Youth Connection.
“Youth Connection mostly looks for volunteers who wish to work in children related fields following their college graduation,” Nichols said. “But we have also worked with others who were drawn to the programs Youth Connection offers.”
Nichols said the ultimate goal of the Teen Mother Visits program is to help teen mothers both in the short term and in the long term.
“We are willing to help them as long as they need help,” Nichols said. “As long as they are willing to help themselves, we are willing to help them.”
To find out more about the services this program provides or how to volunteer, please contact Carolyn Nichols at 254-202-8480 or mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.