The folks at Eckerd, an agency that focuses on providing services to youth and their families, are branching out and creating a new program for teen parents.
The Richmond County Adolescent Parenting Program is free to any parent up to age 19, who is a student enrolled in some type of educational program.
“The two goals of this program is to help keep young parents in school, and to help prevent another pregnancy,” said Jacqueline Ellerbe-Shannon, adolescent parenting coordinator. “In 2004, Richmond County had the highest teen pregnancy rate in the state. That has gone down, but there is still a need for prevention services.”
Studies show that about one in four teen mothers younger than 18 will give birth to a second baby within two years after the birth of their first child. The parenting program hopes to target those moms and provide them with services that will encourage them to stay in school and delay having more children.
“This program will focus on parenting education, and stimulating opportunities for growth,” said Ellerbe-Shannon. “In addition to helping these young people secure their future, we aim to help them become independent and become better parents.”
Education will take place during weekly meetings, as well as home visits.
“We will help parents follow the developmental progress of children by interacting with the whole family during home visits,” Ellerbe-Shannon added.
Currently, there are 15 students enrolled in the program but up to 25 can be accepted.
The program is also working to develop a toy, clothing and resource exchange for parents.
“Access to an exchange program of resources is a motivational tool used to encourage parents to stay involved,” said Ellerbe-Shannon.
The goal of the “resource library” is to allow parents to check out toys, books, clothing and other items and return them when they no longer need them.
The Richmond County program is new, and in the beginning stages of building up this resource library. The program is reaching out to community members, seeking donations of new or gently used items for babies and children. Along with these donations, the program is also seeking Walmart gift cards that can be used for the purchase of consumable items, like formula and disposable items like baby wipes and diapers.
“We have parenting programs in other counties,” said Erin McQueen, community intervention supervisor for the Lumberton area. “The programs in Richmond, Scotland and Robeson counties are all new. The Vance County program has been up and running for about three years, with a lot of success — so we’re very optimistic about the impact this could make in Richmond and other counties as well.”
The donation drive will be held at 12 p.m. Aug. 17, at 377 Mizpah Road in Rockingham.
For more information about the program or the donation drive, contact Ellerbe-Shannon at 910-986-6498.
— Staff Writer Kelli Easterling can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18, or by email at email@example.com.