I write this with the hope that one of your readers will understand the need that is out there right now to help a future generation of young ones that are being born into a life literally “on the edge.” I pray that what I have to say will help to open a few eyes to the fact that unfortunate situations can be turned around to a fortunate end with a little bit of determination and kindness.
I volunteer with a Christian-based organization in San Diego called Teen Life Choice, and its main goal is to provide the much needed emotional support that the state welfare agencies and schools just aren’t equipped to handle. The young moms who join the program are able to receive donated clothing, furniture, and to obtain assistance finding other community resources that may be beneficial. One of the unique features to this program is that each girl is matched with a mentor who has gone through careful screening and training that meet the state requirements as well as the high standards of the program. The mentor is there to assist the girl with everything from transportation, to serving as a resource when there are questions about parenting. The program also provides a “social outing” once a month for the group as a whole, providing a much needed opportunity for the young mother to socialize with her peers in a positive atmosphere. Additionally, Teen Life Choice sponsors a support group where the girls can learn more about teen motherhood, and a safe place to express some of the confusions and frustrations that are common to all mothers, yet perhaps more overwhelming for a teen.
I am merely a volunteer mentor myself in Teen Life Choice, however, it is my strong desire to see a program like this succeed in the community. You see, I am one of the “lucky ones.” I survived my own teen pregnancy and subsequent drop out of high school, to go on and become a nurse. This fall, I will be returning to college to obtain my bachelor’s degree as a pre-med student. It is my dream to go to medical school so that I may one day be a practicing physician in an adolescent parenting clinic. I know first hand the struggles these girls face each day and I am also aware that my own experiences are the exception and not the rule when it comes to the life of a typical parenting teen. Sadly, many of my “little sisters” will fall through society’s cracks without the caring interventions of positive role-models.
Understandably, these girls live in fear of what the future will hold. Welfare is a way of life expected of them, minimum-wage paying jobs are often the most they can hope for. Many, in an attempt to fill the void of self-esteem, will become involved in successive and often abusive relationships – frequently at the expense of their children’s welfare. They aren’t aware that there is another world out there, and that they are just as entitled to live in it, as their more “privileged” counterparts. Most of these girls come from dysfunctional families, and without a drastic change in the way they perceive family life, the cycle will continue.
I believe that Teen Life Choice is God’s way of helping to break the cycle for some of these young girls. By allowing them a bit of respite from an otherwise chaotic life, they are allowed an opportunity to grow and mature. By being exposed to Christian women, they can often achieve their first glimpses of what a “functional” family life is.
There are several ways to become involved, anything from the donation of used baby items or offering to help with transportation would be greatly appreciated. And for those who feel more committed to ministering to teen mothers, perhaps mentoring would be a rewarding experience. (We are even interested in starting church partnerships in an attempt to further expand the ministry!) If you think that you might be interested, please contact Leslie Ratliff or Sam Morey at Teen Life Choice at (619) 292-8499.