If you are fortunate, your childhood fortified you with unconditional love, nurturing, protection and provision. Childhood should provide the reserves of love to build confidence and a sense of self necessary to meet the challenges of life as an adult. If you grew up missing any of these components, you might struggle to cope. The role of a parent is critical to a child’s healthy transition into adulthood.
Parents’ successes and failures culminate in generational consequences and rewards. Children born to teen parents are at an increased risk of repeating the cycle. This cycle creates multiple generations of broken families, underachievement, and far too often, children are at increased risk for neglect and abuse.
Teen Mothers in Foster Care
For children born to teen mothers in foster care, this risk is greater. Foster care is intended to protect vulnerable children from neglect and abuse, not to raise them. The specific care and protection teen mothers in foster care require is not available. For young mothers who endured a childhood filled with trauma meeting, the emotional needs of their babies is a daunting task. Teen mothers in foster care lack sufficient reserves to develop positive relational bonds. Although, many children age out of foster care each year- focused, driven, and committed to building independent lives filled with optimism and hope. The added responsibilities of motherhood create significant barriers to achievement. Teen mothers require a concerted effort to provide support, resources, and guidance. This support is not available through foster care protection provided by state agencies. Child protective services need partnerships with grassroots organizations to affect change.
DC127 is a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization that empowers vulnerable families. Our programs provide the kind of help that prevents the need for foster care protection. We walk with teen mothers in foster care who lack a positive childhood foundation, assisting them as they seek housing, counseling services, jobs, and balance food insecurities. The goals are achieve by engaging volunteers from the community and our church partners. We believe there is no other institution like the church to care for vulnerable children and their families, a principle rooted in the gospel according to James 1:27.
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
Our mission is to stabilize vulnerable families through a holistic approach. We partner with local churches for financial support and to recruit volunteers who provide consistent support for our families. DC127 programs provide emotional encouragement through paired volunteer relationships, direct support for utility and rent assistance, psychological counseling services, and technology support for distance learning. We also meet the practical needs of teen mothers who need clothing. We assist teen mothers to reach a self-assigned goal which will provide stability for their family. Many of our mothers are focused on graduating high school. They understand the value of a high school diploma. They are motivated to find employment to provide financially for their children. 100% of the families we serve live well below national poverty norms. Graduating high school is an important first threshold to move teen mothers from a lifetime of dependence on public welfare.
Encourage and Educate
Most foster care programs focus on meeting the immediate needs of children- shelter, clothing, and food. There is limited pregnancy prevention intervention, assistance identifying or establishing healthy relationships. Once a teen in foster care becomes a parent, she is at an increased risk of additional pregnancies. Our ministry encourages and educates teen mothers to prevent future pregnancies before they are self-sufficient. Everyone can play an important role in the solution.
Foster a Teen Mom
Perhaps there is a teenager in your family or your life who became pregnant, and you walked with her as she prepared to bring life into the world, while she herself was a child. If so, you have experienced firsthand the many complexities of teen parenthood. You calmed her fears and assured her that God has a plan for her life and for the life of her child. You offered encouragement, guidance, and prayer. Imagine your impact on a teen mom in foster care, one who has yet to benefit from the relentless devotion of a consistent parent/responsible adult. She has a hard time recognizing or offering this foreign vital emotional intelligence precious children require.
A teen mother must provide something she has yet to experience. Building and sustaining a family is a challenge with the best of preparation, support, intention and circumstance. We can each play a role in advocating for intervention programs for teen mothers in foster care. We can foster a teen mother. You can develop a ministry within the church to encourage moms in foster care.
As a Christian and a mother, this work has given great meaning to my life. As in most instances, all we need to do is volunteer to help, and we will find ourselves the recipient of many more gifts than we gave.
For years I struggled with making sense of my childhood pain and the negative impact my broken family had on me. God used this pain to heal me through my work. Prior to joining DC127, I worked with young adults who aged out of foster care. A student shared with me that he was “a throw-away child”. This statement broke my heart. I assured him that he was incredibly gifted and valuable. He was created by God, who knew each hair on his head; that he was not disposable or unimportant. I don’t know if I reached him, but his honesty and his pain inspire me to do this work with great conviction and vigor.
DC127 provides the structure and the framework for a new path of stability and independence for teen mothers in foster care. Our programs celebrate the accomplishments of each mother we support. We work tirelessly to empower them by offering programs that create the foundation of love for their children that they never received. The young mothers we serve are amazing:
Kristy is a young mother who aged out of foster care while supported by DC127. She has a 3-year daughter; Kristy has no family support and limited emotional connectivity. She enrolled in our program at the onset of the pandemic, saying that she felt isolated and overwhelmed. With the help of her volunteer, we worked to identify affordable housing, find employment, and diminish her isolation. We provided a counselor to help manage her anxiety. She received financial assistance, groceries, and extracurricular educational support for her daughter. Through our program, Kristy found a job she enjoys, finished her first semester of high school, and moved out of her transitional housing into an apartment. She no longer feels like she is on the journey alone. She has experienced the power of Christ’s love firsthand.
Additionally, she and her volunteer have created a bond that has sustained past her engagement with DC127; they now enjoy a lifelong friendship.
We Can All Serve Teen Mothers
The challenges teen mothers face are complex. Through Christ’s body of believers, we can all serve teen mothers in foster care who face grim outcomes without targeted help. Through volunteerism, you can offer encouragement, perspective, and kindness. Our programs couple this emotional connection with direct services to move teen mothers to build independent lives. DC127 is part of a national network of organizations serving foster and adoptive families. I encourage you to become engaged. The gospel, according to James, instructs us to serve.
“As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead.” -James 2:26