Posted by StreetWise in Magazine ArticlesNew Moms, a non-profit that encourages and equips homeless and at-risk adolescent mothers and their children, cut the ribbon October 1 for its new building in the Austin neighborhood that has brought most of its programs under one roof and nearly doubled its residential capacity.
Until the opening of the $12 million building at 5327 W. Chicago Ave., there were only 31 beds available in Chicago for pregnant and parenting teens. New Moms provided more than half of them through its Cooperative Living Program.
Founded in 1983 on the northwest side, New Moms annually serves more than 300 teenage parents and children. However, in 2009 New Moms turned away 891 homeless, teen-led families for lack of bed space.
New Moms’ new facility will allow the program to raise the number of mothers served from 23 to 40 and the number of their children from 30 to 50. Mothers with one child will occupy 30 studio apartments. There will be 10 one-bedroom units for mothers with two children. Teen moms (age 18 to 21) and their children (under age 5) can stay up to 24 months.
Participants in the New Moms program often arrive with nothing but a baby in their arms and a trash bag filled with a few possessions. Many are multi-generational welfare recipients who live 200 percent below the poverty line; 97 percent are Latino or African-American and their children are under 5. Nearly 70 percent have experienced domestic or sexual abuse. About 80 percent have dropped out of school and read at an average 4th grade level. Many have no permanent home and are officially homeless, living on the street with their children.
The new 49,561 square-foot facility, designed by Chicago architecture firm McBride Kelley Baurer, will include a licensed in-house daycare center run by the Salvation Army. New Moms will also offer a more comprehensive infant mental health program and the soon-to-debut D.A.D.S, a program designed for teen fathers. The building will also house a cafeteria, food pantry, administrative offices, community rooms, and outdoor play area to be built to LEED Silver specifications for energy efficiency, the second highest ranking for green buildings.
Besides the Cooperative Living Program, New Moms offers five more programs to its young mothers, who can choose the level of involvement based on their needs and comfort level:
Community Outreach Program, home-based visits for moms 13 to 21 who are homeless or at risk. Services include case management to connect them to resources such as health care, education, job training; they are automatically included in New Moms’ Parents As Teachers program.
Parents As Teachers (PAT) Home-based education and mentoring works to compensate for impoverished backgrounds. The program offers monitoring of perinatal and child medical appointments, annual vision and hearing testing.
Pathways – a discussion-based life support group and life skills course that helps the moms provide stable environments. At each meeting, a group of women takes charge of dinner for up to 18 moms and their children at a cost of $50 supplemented from the food pantry.
The Academy of Professional Development – Girls are evaluated for their education levels and aptitudes. If necessary, they will finish high school, receive a GED or enter job/vocational training. They will be able to access email, work on resumes and job search. The Finishing Academy includes a four-week practicum at Bright Endeavors, New Moms’ green social enterprise that sells a line of homemade candles and spa products. “Most of these girls have never seen anyone set an alarm clock, wake up, and go to work everyday,” said Audalee McLoughlin, executive director of New Moms. “They may often be late or not show up but they’ve also never experienced the sensation of being counted on or missed.” The girls also receive employment training and personal support during pre-shift breakfasts. “When some moms arrive here, their biggest need is for a family,” said Stephanie Wernet, director of strategic partnerships at New Moms and co-founder of Bright Endeavors. The pre-shift meetings also allow supervisors to watch for signs of physical abuse, drug use or malnutrition. The final step is a 16-week internship keyed to their career goals, followed by permanent job placement and follow-up.
New Kids Enrichment program – supervision for children up to age 5 while their moms are taking classes in the Professional Development Academy or meeting with case managers. They are monitored for signs of abuse and/or neglect and fed healthy and nutritious meals and snacks. In 2009, 73 percent of children turning 2 were fully immunized; 77 percent received Denver II Developmental screening. That same year, New Kids provided more than 6,700 hours of programming for 130 children.
By Suzanne Hanney
From prepared materials