The goal of Stepping Stones Family Home is to provide young mothers/pregnant teens that can no longer live at their home, with a family style supportive living environment. This environment will be enriched with teaching parenting skills, child development skills, budgeting, healthy living, family role modeling, career preparation and job skills necessary in providing them with a means to long term economic independence. Stepping Stones Family Home aims to impact the growth and development of the teenage mother and child’s social emotional well-being as well as teaching the mother proper child development.
Unique & Different
Studies show that as many as 60 percent of teenage mothers are living below the poverty line and 80 percent rely on welfare for support during at least some period of time following their child’s birth. A U.S Department of Health and Human Services study states “the impoverished circumstances of teenage mothers are exacerbated by the fact that many have limited academic skills, have dropped out of high school, and come from backgrounds with few role models or opportunities for improving their lives.” Homeless young mothers experience great difficulty finding a place to live with their children due to most homeless shelters, women’s shelters and transitional living programs catering to the over 18 demographic and typically not accepting young children.
The main focus of Stepping Stones Family Home is to create a family style environment that will prepare mother and child for the distinct set of challenges that they will face as single parents, by equipping them with the tools they need to be successful in overcoming those challenges. Mothers will be provided with connections to community services, family role modeling, and a chance to grow intellectually as well as emotionally through a tiered style of living which encourages responsibility and independence.
Stepping Stones Family Home offers a unique program design to help ensure success for both mother and baby. Living in a family style home with staff, the young mothers will be provided with their own room for themselves and their baby. They will share a kitchen, living room, and bathrooms. As the mothers complete program required classes and demonstrate growing responsibility, they will graduate to separate dorm style living on the property with one “house mother,”who will oversee day to day activities. Finally, the mothers will prepare for independent living as they move to their own apartments and are assigned a case manager who will be able to provide follow-up checks, guidance and supervision as mother and baby begin to navigate the “real world.” Stepping Stones Family Home believe that the tiered approach best prepares the mothers for life outside the program, and offers mother and child concrete steps toward their continued success.
STUDIES SHOW THAT AS MANY AS
OF TEENAGE MOMS ARE LIVING BELOW THE POVERTY LINE
STEPPING STONES FOUNDERS
My name is BarbaraAnn Greer and I have been a teacher for the past 17 years. I began my career teaching with a non-profit organization called Jobs for Bay State Graduates. JBSG was a program designed to work with at-risk inner city students by teaching them life skills. The program focused on four important areas: Career Preparation, Civic Awareness, Social Affairs and Community Service. I spent 10 years teaching the JBSG program at Lynn Classical High School. My experience working with my students in the JBSG program changed my life.
In 2009, I went to work at Haverhill High School to start a pilot program of JBSG. I was given the task of developing curriculum and implementing it to students who were repeating their freshman year for the 3rd time. This program was called the “Success Academy,” and JBSG was a program to be taught within the Success Academy. My main goal was to assist with lowering the dropout rate at Haverhill High School. Unfortunately, the following year JBSG program lost funding and I found myself unemployed.
During my year spent at Haverhill High School, I kept hearing about an Alternative School in the city for students with behavior problems. I was fortunate enough to be hired there as an Educational Support Person with the hopes that a teacher position would open up in the near future. In April of 2009, I was hired as a High School Reading Teacher at The Haverhill Alternative School. I came to the realization that teaching was my “calling” and if I were to continue teaching, I would need a Master’s Degree. I enrolled at Cambridge College and successfully acquired a Master’s Degree in Special Education for Students with Moderate Disabilities 5-12, in January of 2010.
Throughout my years I encountered numerous young ladies who became pregnant at a young age and due to unfortunate circumstances, did not have a positive female role model in their lives to teach them how to be mothers. Often times these young girls were living in group home settings or moving from place to place. Never had I encountered a direr situation than the one in January 2016. I had a female student who had her daughter removed from her custody because she was deemed homeless. She was born into circumstances that were out of her control, and because she did not have an adequate permanent home to raise her daughter, the baby was taken away. It was eight long days before her case was heard before a judge, and her daughter returned to my student. During two long days of waiting in court, my co-founder Jill and I decided that something had to be done to fix this broken system. There needed to be a safe place for a young mother who was homeless to live and learn how to be the best mother possible to their child. This is when the vision of Stepping Stones Family Home was created. Since February of 2016, Jill and I have not stopped pursuing the dream of providing young teenage mothers a place that provides Love, Independence, Nurturing and Acceptance. Stepping Stones Family Home will be a HOME, where these young mothers will have a chance to grow and blossom and not be just another number or statistic, but rather a success story to pass down to their own children.
I can remember the exact moment my life changed. While deployed to Afghanistan in 2010-2011 I served as a part of a female engagement team working with the women and children in Afghanistan. My work allowed me the flexibility to plan and implement my own programs as well as working with the Civil Affairs team on their initiatives. After holding one of my many women's shuras (meeting with locals) to discuss ideas for women's sewing programs and health programs, I was preparing to leave when a widow named Bibi Juma grabbed my hand and pleaded with me "we are poor people... there is nothing you can do for us (the women of Afghanistan) but you can help our children, for they are the future of Afghanistan" I promised her I would do what I could to help and walked back to the truck with my eyes full of tears and heart full of hope.
I truly believe that the key to success lay in the foundation of education for children no matter where they live. Learning of the alarming 2% literacy rate in the province, I knew I had to do something to help change that and to keep my promise to Bibi. I began an education initiative, carrying school books and backpacks into the villages to give these children of war a real chance at life. Through research, I found and partnered with a book company from Los Altos California who provided stories of traditional Afghan folklore printed in both Pashtu and Dari. I then had these stories recorded with page turn signals (think Reading Rainbow for Afghanistan!) to be played on Afghan and coalition force radio stations. We handed out the books, solar powered radios and schedules of reading times to the villages and the program took off. Villagers across the province began asking our US soldiers how they too could be provided with these books! I continued my work, helping provide health services for the women and assisting in opening the first two girls middle schools ever in the province.
For the first time in my life I felt like I really made a difference in other’s lives. Upon my arrival home I began exploring career options which would give me the same since of pride and accomplishment I felt in Afghanistan. I finally decided to explore a path I found to be most similar to my work in Afghanistan and that was working with at risk youth here in America. Interviewing at an Alternative High School in the area I was elated to be offered a job as a classroom aide out of a field of 67 candidates. It was my military experience which had set me apart and I vowed to once again keep my promise to Bibi this time by educating our youth here at home so our next generation may be more compassionate about helping those in need.
I have found my place working with these children, however in February of 2016 I experienced a particularly trying time in my career as an educator. I never fully grasped the true struggle of our population until a 17 year old student at our school found herself homeless with her young daughter in early 2016. Immediately stepping in to help, I called over 30 programs and services over the course of a few days. Unfortunately there were limited to no programs which catered to homeless mothers under the age of 18. Due to being deemed homeless, our student’s daughter was ultimately removed from her mother and we needed to go to court to petition to allow this young mother to regain custody. During our time in court fighting to reunite mother and baby, BarabaraAnn and I decided then and there we would not let this happen to another young mother. During this time the idea of Stepping Stones Family Home was born and we have not stopped with our mission since.
After developing our Program Proposal we enrolled in classes with the Veteran Business Owners Initiative. Recently graduating from the 6 month, 18 module certificate program we are now members of the Veteran Business Owners Association and have an amazing set of supports and resources through this group. In January of 2017 we will be continuing our education through a Nonprofit Management Certificate Program. We believe it is vital to the success of Stepping Stones Family Home to ensure our staff at all levels are continually expanding their knowledge and education in the field we are so passionate about.
STUDIES ALSO SHOW THAT AS MANY AS
OF TEENAGE MOMS RELY ON WELFARE FOR SUPPORT