Teen moms in Whatcom County will be matched with mentors who are themselves mothers under a new program from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Washington.
Called Mother-2-Mother, it aims to help support pregnant and parenting teens, who are at greater risk of dropping out of school and of depression than other teens who aren't parents, according to Big Brothers Big Sisters.
A $4,000 grant from Whatcom County Health Department provided the seed money for the program. The grant came from federal dollars.
The hope is that such mentoring relationships will help teen moms continue on with their education as well as create better bonds with their children, said Samantha Dennison, the Mother-2-Mother coordinator.
Dennison said the point isn't to preach at teen moms so much as to have someone who's gone through motherhood to be an advocate and to offer a sympathetic ear.
That view was echoed by Judy Ziels, public health nurse supervisor with Whatcom County Health Department.
"Having a caring relationship with someone can make all the difference in the world for someone to stay motivated," Ziels said.
"Cheerleading is huge," she added, referring to the importance of someone telling teen moms, "You can do this."
Big Brothers Big Sisters hopes to make 10 Mother-2-Mother matches by the end of the next school year, and 20 by 2014.
Dennison said she wasn't a teen mom. She had her daughter when she was 28 years old and was in a loving relationship, yet "I needed a mentor. I knew I needed someone to help me."
"I had never even held a baby. I had no idea the tremendous amount of responsibility and constant need that this being has," she added.
No matter a woman's age, all women need help moving through the biggest experience of their lives, Dennison said.
And moms usually want to share their experiences, she said.
"This call is to connect moms and strengthen the community, especially for these teen girls," Dennison said.
HOW TO HELP
Would-be mentors or teen moms interested in being part of the new Mother-2-Mother should contact Samantha Dennison at 360-671-6400, ext. 116, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is a new program of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Washington, which is online at bbbs-nw.org.
Would-be mentors need to be 25 years or older, have a high school diploma, and be able to clear a driving record and background check.
Those who have been matched will spend six to eight hours a month together, ideally broken up into two afternoons.
Moms serving as volunteer mentors will receive training.
Reach KIE RELYEA at email@example.com or call 715-2234.