MotherLove Celebrates 26 Years of Service to Teen Moms

25 May

The YWCA MotherLove program is throwing an anniversary/end-of-the school-year party this Friday, May 27 at 5 pm in the Asheville Housing Authority Parking Lot. Read on to find out more about the history of this important program, the need for it, and how we continue to serve today.

In 1969, the YWCA Public Affairs Committee recognized the need to address the fact that pregnant teenagers were being forced to leave school. In the spring of 1970, with no funds, the YWCA started a Continuing Education Program for teen mothers. Initially there were twelve teenagers who met two days a week at the South French Broad facility with volunteer teachers. By 1973, the program was moved to the Allen Interagency Center because it had grown into a full-time school serving sixty girls, and it needed much more classroom and nursery space. By 1975, the school board policy regarding pregnant and parenting teenagers had changed, and the Asheville City Schools absorbed the YWCA Continuing Educational Program into their Optional School.

Though teen mothers eventually were allowed to attend school as mainstream students, dropout rates were high. To address this problem the YWCA again focused on pregnant and parenting teens by starting the MotherLove program in 1985. Today the successful MotherLove program supports teen mothers with a unique blend of one-on-one mentoring and in-school and extracurricular activities designed to encourage girls to stay in school through graduation and beyond.

More than 19,000 young North Carolina women between the ages of 10 and 19 get pregnant each year. The 2009 data, compiled by the NC Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS), shows that 56 of every 1,000 teen girls ages 15 to 19 became pregnant in 2009. The new rate reflects a 4.4% decrease from the 2008 rate of 58.6 per 1,000 girls. Teen pregnancy rates in North Carolina have consistently decreased since 1991 following a spike in the late 1980s. Pregnancy rates fell across all age, racial and ethnic categories, as well as in all but 37 North Carolina counties. Abortion rates also decreased in all categories.

Despite the positive trend, significant disparities still exist between racial and ethnic groups. The pregnancy rate among white teens was 45.4 per 1,000 girls, while the corresponding rate for minority teens was 74.3. The rate specifically for Hispanic teens was 118.4. North Carolina’s underserved rural counties typically saw higher rates of teen pregnancy than urban counties.

While the drop in teen pregnancy rates has mimicked national trends, North Carolina still lags behind the rest of the nation. The latest state rankings by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy show North Carolina has the 14th highest teen pregnancy rate.

While Buncombe County ranks relatively low (82nd) as compared to other North Carolina counties in teen birth rates, there were still more than 300 teen pregnancies in our county in 2009. Additionally, of those 300 pregnancies, 23% of them were repeat births.

And while our rates have improved (NC used to have the 9th highest rate) over the past two decades, there is still a profound effect that teen pregnancy has on communities, future generations and the teens themselves. The answer to, “Why do teens get pregnant?” can seem so simple – after all, we all know how babies are made. But both significant research and common sense tell us that the answer to that question is much more complicated. Education, socio-economic status, future opportunities, how a teen relates to parents or peers, and self-esteem only scratch the surface of the risk factors for teen pregnancy.

In 2010, MotherLove helped 54 young women learn parenting skills, access child care and health care, and most importantly, stay in school. Of the 12 Seniors enrolled in the MotherLove program in Spring 2010, 100% of them graduated from high school. The YW also made more than 30 presentations throughout the community to help other organizations help their students avoid early pregnancy.

Click here to make a donation to suppor the MotherLove program.

Here is a link to a video by Sabrina Nizzi featuring MotherLove Director Tangela Ballard-Bowman and some of the teens currently in the program:

photos by sandra stambaugh

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