Homes, Jobs, Strong Families!

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alt text By Chelsea Berry, Real Chi Youth Reporter
 
 

Jasmine Stewart got pregnant for the first time at the age of 16. Feeling alone and embracing the struggles of an adolescent, a friend introduced her to New Moms, a North Lawndale-based family service provider that helps young mothers find homes, get jobs, and create strong families.

Four years later, Stewart now works with New Moms as a Family Support Specialist.

“I was attracted to this line of work, and am still here because I was a young mom, “she said. “I was a 16-year-old mom and I just remember that feeling of not having support.”

“I was a 16-year-old mom and I just remember that feeling of not having support.”

Jenna Hania, the Director of Development and Communication at New Moms, said that some of the participants are young women that are pregnant or parenting in a short-term homeless youth organization. “We meet a lot of young women who are homeless while parenting or pregnant,” Hania said. “We sign them up for our organization, offer them housing and free resources on parenting skills.”

Between 2016 and 2017, New Moms served 287 mothers and 361 children, according to their 2017 Annual Report.

Participants staying at the transitional center are placed in single housing units with their child. Housing accounts for 28 percent of the expenses according to the report. Majority of the housing rules are standard: No drinking, no smoking and no outsiders allowed in the housing units.

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The Family Support Program helps mothers set goals for their families, learn to budget and connect them to resources that help them learn about their child’s development, Hania explained. This consists of home-visits that encourage parent-child activities, resource handouts for more parenting support and open discourse between mothers and Family Support Specialist.

“So usually the way it would go, I would visit a home and encourage a parent child activity, where we allow parents to learn different activities to teach their child,“ Stewart said. “We tend to spend time helping parents prepare their child’s learning development day [and] these visits last 30 minutes to an hour.”

“Many mothers are in fear of working a regular 9 to 5 [and] developing too much income because then they will be forced off government assistance.”

Workforce development is another key component of the work done at New Moms and accounts for 35 percent of their expenses. It is the highest total percentage expense by program, according to the report. This development includes resume building, professionalism, and skills on data processing.

“Job trainings are 16-week courses accessible to both participants and community residents, where you learn various skills on how to conduct yourself in a professional environment,” Hania said.

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Stewart explained that some of the major challenges New Moms faces include poverty and a lack of resources. “Many mothers are in fear of working a regular 9 to 5 [and] developing too much income because then they will be forced off government assistance,” she said. “Stigma and lack of awareness also make it difficult for some families to be served.”

Many participants are informed through the organization’s website, social media or former participants, however, raising awareness about various programs to get more participants is an ongoing challenge.

"Some of the challenges that New Moms face are continuing to let people know about the awesome work we’re doing, communicating clearly to our community that when you invest in two generations of youth, you are investing into an entire generational shift towards their future,” Hania said.  

Despite these challenges, Stewart continues to be motivated when helping other mothers and their kids through difficult times, remembering her own experience as a young mother.