Program helps teen moms become good parents

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Developed by the Junior League of Minneapolis in 1991, Bright Beginnings is a free mentorship program available for teenage mothers to help them gain support during a challenging time of their lives. Last year, Bright Beginnings served 166 new moms and their babies, helping them achieve what may seem small to the average teen but are substantial goals to a new mom who is still a teenager herself.

These goals include staying in school, attending a post-partum doctor’s appointment, joining a parenting support group, learning about community resources for parents, and making sure baby gets to all of his or her doctor’s appointments and receives all necessary immunizations during the first year.

Bright Beginnings is in need of women volunteers to mentor teenage moms who are pregnant or have a baby that is less than 12 months old. To help achieve a young mom’s goals, a mentor may help a new mom without transportation make a trip to the store to buy baby diapers or formula, or take her to the doctor’s office. More importantly, a mentor is there just to listen.

“The need is huge to support these young women,” said Jane Bates, Bright Beginnings program coordinator. “They are going through so much and could use all the support that they can get. Mentors really help them grow to become successful parents and young women.”

Sixteen-year-old Brittney Dowell of North Minneapolis has gone through many challenges that a new mom faces, no matter how old the mom may be. Dowell knows what sleepless nights are all about, especially how exhausting they can be on the heels of a full day of school. Dowell met her mentor while she was in the hospital delivering her now 12-month-old daughter Faith.

“My mentor really helped me keep all of my doctor’s appointments,” said Dowell. “I knew from the beginning that I would stay in school, so that wasn’t a problem for me. However, I would definitely say that’s the biggest challenge that teenage moms face: It’s hard to stay in school when you’re tired all the time.”

Mentors who participate in Bright Beginnings should be at least 21 years old. They aren’t required to be a mom but are required to take a nine-hour training course. They are asked to call the teen once a week and visit with them two or three times a month, including attending an educational social event. These events allow moms to interact and socialize with other young mothers, as well as listen to a community speaker who talks about parenting topics.

“These social events allow teenage moms to hang out with a group of people that are going through the same thing as they are,” said Bates of Bright Beginnings.

Bright Beginnings serves the northwestern area of Hennepin County and is expanding to serve South Minneapolis. The program has a strong partnership with North Memorial Hospital, and receives funding from Hennepin County, as well as other local agencies, private grants and foundations.

If you are interested in becoming a mentor for Bright Beginnings, or for more information, contact Jane Bates at 612-617-0191 ext. 1224 or jbates@genesis2.org.