By Stephanie Utrup
My favorite person (who also happens to be the funniest, cutest person I know!) is my niece, Aubrey. She’s 2½ and loves to talk on the phone, run, learn and everything else a 2½ year old loves to do.
Aubrey is my younger sister’s daughter. Stacey had Aubrey right after she turned 19. While my sister was blessed with the support and help of everyone around her, especially both of my parents, this isn’t the case for everyone and is a rarity for many teen moms.
Another teen mom, Madison, in Salisbury, N.C., got that support with Parents as Teachers services provided by the Rowan County Adolescent and Family Enrichment Council.
My experience with my sister is not the only insight I have into the life of a teen mom. When I was working toward my undergraduate social work degree, I interned at Services To Area Youth (STAY), an agency that offers Parents as Teachers home visits to at-risk mothers, most of whom are teens, in the greater Cincinnati region. One mother I worked with had been working at Wendy’s doing landscaping, but quit when she became pregnant because of the physical labor involved with her job. I worked with her from before her son was born until the baby was almost 6-months old. When I finished my internship she had just been accepted into a five-year nursing program at a college near Cincinnati—something she aspired to but didn’t feel capable of when I first met her. Seeing the transformations these mothers and families made in the single year I was there opened my eyes to the power parenting support can provide.
It makes me think about the kind of world we would live in if every teen mom could have the support that Parents as Teachers is able to provide. I envision it full of parents living out their dreams to go back to school or working at a job that makes them capable of fully supporting their families as so many of them aspire to do. I envision children who can read, learn and develop to their fullest potential.
Wouldn’t that be a wonderful world?
Stephanie Utrup is a graduate student at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis and a practicum student at the National Center for Parents as Teachers. Upon graduation in August she hopes to work in child advocacy in Washington D.C.