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Teen pregnancies are down, but the needs are greater
Date published: 11/9/2012
She received help with child care costs, plus Gillis negotiated with a local day care center to get reduced rates. That helped keep day care affordable so that Williams could concentrate on studying and taking care of her daughter.
Williams is now 19 and a student at Germanna Community College. She hopes to become a kindergarten teacher one day.
But when she was 16 and pregnant, Williams worried she'd have to abandon her dreams.
She met Gillis, who connected the teen mom with YoungLives, a faith-based support group and mentoring program for teen parents. Gillis also connected Williams with classes in Lamaze, infant CPR and baby massage.
But the most-concrete help was money for child care. To get that help, teen parents must stay in school, develop a plan for their future and help with the program's fundraising efforts.
An annual craft show and a handful of smaller fundraisers pay for the child care assistance, but there is never enough for all of the teen moms in the program, Gillis said.
'A LOT OF STRESS'
The Program for Teen Parents has been helping area youth for nearly 20 years. In 2004, the program started offering day care assistance after one mom nearly dropped out of school because she couldn't afford child care.
In 2007, the program lost most of its funding. Since then, it has been offered only in Spotsylvania County, as supervisors have continued to fund Gillis' position part time.
Until 2007, the program also operated in the city of Fredericksburg and the counties of Stafford, Caroline and King George. Gillis would love to see the program restored to those localities.
"I know there is such a need for it there," she said.
Gillis meets with teen moms during school and connects them with resources. But she's also ready with advice and support--from suggesting one mom try putting her son in a swing when he demands to be held all day to reminding another not to bad-mouth her baby's father in front of the child.
Gillis has been trying to connect the homeless pregnant teens with even more resources, such as the Spotsylvania schools' homeless liaison, who can guide them to resources, work with their families and give them food, clothes and toiletries.
"These families are under a lot of stress," Gillis said. "They need a lot of help."
Amy Flowers Umble: 540/735-1973
Two upcoming fundraisers will benefit the Program for Teen Parents:
A craft fair will be held Saturday, Nov. 10, from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Riverbend High School in Spotsylvania.
A dine and donate event will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 5-8 p.m., at Lone Star Steakhouse on Plank Road; 15 percent of sales on food, including carryout, will go to the program. Also, people who brings diapers, formula or wipes for program participants will get a coupon for their next visit. 540/374-1565.
For details on the Program for Teen Parents, contact Joan Gillis, 540/374-3337 or firstname.lastname@example.org.