National Child Abuse Prevention Month: Building Community and Hope in the Lives of Teen Mothers

Publication Date: April 7, 2017

Ms. Crews with her children on her graduation dayApril is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, a time to acknowledge the importance of families and communities working together to prevent child maltreatment. With the theme "Building Community, Building Hope," we recognize that child abuse and neglect is a complex issue that requires all communities to respond in order to give hope to children and families.

Through the Children’s Bureau’s Office of Child Abuse and Neglect (OCAN), the Community-Based Child Abuse Program (CBCAP) was established by Title II of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act Amendments of 1996 and most recently reauthorized by the CAPTA Reauthorization Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-320) to support community-based efforts to develop, operate, expand, enhance, and coordinate initiatives, programs, and activities to prevent child abuse and neglect. It was also established to support the coordination of resources and activities to better strengthen and support families to reduce the likelihood of child abuse and neglect. Lastly, the CBCAP fosters understanding, appreciation, and knowledge of diverse populations to effectively prevent and treat child abuse and neglect.

Many pregnant and parenting teen mothers receive support through CBCAP efforts. An example of this is DC Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA), a federally funded CBCAP lead agency that supports a network of coordinated child abuse prevention resources and activities for children, youth, and families. As part of CBCAP, DC CFSA funds the Healthy Babies Project’s Teen Parent Empowerment Program (TPEP) which connects high-risk, underserved pregnant teens and families to health care, social services, and educational opportunities. Below is a short story of how the DC CFSA’s Healthy Babies Project’s Teen Parent Empowerment Program supported one of their teen mothers.

Ms. Crews had a devastating childhood. She fell victim to sexual exploitation in order to have food to eat. Her uncle was murdered; she lost her brother to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS); and her mother’s boyfriend sexually abused her, leading to Ms. Crews’ suicide attempt and psychiatric hospitalization. She was three months pregnant when she was connected to Healthy Babies Project’s TPEP. The support from the staff made a difference between Ms. Crews perpetuating the cycle of poverty or moving out of it. “They helped me learn to be a mom. And they helped me to get on a program to finish my GED,” said Ms. Crews. “They were there for me.” Healthy Babies Project (HBP) staff encouraged her to apply to the University of the District of Columbia. In May 2016, Ms. Crews received her diploma in criminal justice. More importantly, Ms. Crews learned and embodied resilience in the midst of adversity. Resilience is having the ability to thrive, adapt and cope despite tough and stressful times. Ms. Crews learned how to deal with negative situations and surrounded herself with a network of supportive people.

When a pregnant teen is referred to HBP by community partners, she is matched with an HBP Family Support Worker (FSW). Together the teen and the FSW create an Individual Care Plan to address the teen’s needs - health care, housing, food, education, job readiness, life skills, baby care, and parenting skills. Then the support worker mentors the teen one-on-one through her pregnancy and early stages of parenting, using a nationally-recognized evidence-based care model. Each teen mom progresses through her individual plan until she transitions to independent living. The program’s success rate is significant: 80% of those who complete the program are in school or employed. “The Healthy Babies staff kept telling me, you can do this,’” says Ms. Crews. “So that’s what I say to other young moms. You can do this. HBP made it possible for me, and it will for you too.”

This is just one story of how CBCAP provides support in the community and how communities can come together to make a difference in the lives of teen mothers and their children. Visit the National Child Abuse Prevention Month website Visit disclaimer page to find useful resources to help bring awareness to child abuse prevention.

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