Young Parents Program
(2008 GCF Children & Youth Fund) - Twelve parents (ages 15-24) and ten children (ages 6 and under) gather in Fergus for the Young Parents Resource Night offered by the Community Resource Centre of North and Centre Wellington (CRC). This weekly program provides young moms and dads with opportunities to develop skills in parenting, health and safety, nutrition, relationships, positive lifestyle choices, and community resource support.

The program consists of three components: a nutritious meal for each family, a young mother’s group, and a young father’s group. The children are cared for by early childhood educators that are experts in modeling positive adult/child interaction skills for teen parents and their children.

Young parents are most likely to experience the greatest number of challenges and barriers to accessing traditional parenting resources. With few programs geared to the unique needs of young parents in North and Centre Wellington, this program is the only one that supports young fathers and helps them with the many issues they face. Given the success of the pilot project, the CRC will continue to offer the Young Parents Program.

A story about one family attending the program (names have been changed to maintain confidentiality):
Alisha and Sean, together with 12 other young moms and dads ages 15-24, gather weekly at the Community Resource Centre (CRC) in Fergus. They are there for the Young Parents Resource Night. Alisha is attending community college and her partner Sean, who hasn’t worked steadily in quite a while, is at home full-time with their two daughters who are 3 months and 18 months. They struggle financially to keep their rent paid and utilities connected.

CRC Outreach Workers work with mothers and fathers in the group discussing the day to day challenges of isolation, depression, and frustrations that they face. The parents learn about their children’s growth and development, which allow them to have realistic expectations of their children. Sean connects with an employment counselor with Conestoga’s Job Connect program and has begun to set some long term goals. Alisha spends time with the public nurse and discovers she is suffering with Mastitis. Alisha is referred to her family doctor and given the support she needs to continue to breastfeed.

Together, Sean and Alisha learn to cook an inexpensive ‘Three Bean Turkey Chili’ while their daughters become comfortable in the Ontario Early Years Centre. Their eldest daughter has developed a very fond relationship with the program staff and is exposed to new learning opportunities she would not have had otherwise if it were not for her parents weekly visits to the Centre.

Alisha and Sean face other anxieties as their oldest daughter is scheduled for surgery at McMaster in a few weeks. They worry about finding the money for gas and food while they are away from home. The CRC Outreach Worker is able to assist the family with their registration at the Hamilton Ronald McDonald House. They learn about other community resources and income/employment support available to them. 
 
A grant of $3,000 from The Guelph Community Foundation supported the start-up of the Young Parents Program and the CRC is committed to allow the program to continue due to its success.