Penquis Community Action Program Partners with Maternity Group Home for Pregnant and Parenting Teens
Becoming a mother as a teenager often means a young woman has to grow up quickly and learn how to support herself and her new family. The situation is more challenging for young women who are no longer living with their parents because they have run away or have been asked to leave. Maternity group homes funded by the federal Family and Youth Services Bureau provide a safe place for them to begin motherhood and connect to opportunities for the future.
Journey House, a maternity group home in Bangor, Maine, uses IDAs as a tool to help their residents take control of their finances. They start the financial intervention by helping young mothers create budgets and pull their credit reports. These basic activities give them a sense of empowerment.
“It sparks their interest and makes them think, ‘Here is a different way that I can think about finances; it doesn’t just happen to me, I can be an active participant in saving and planning.’ It gives them concrete activities to do, like fill out the form for their credit report and go and talk to the bank. They need to take care of it themselves and they learn each step of the way, so their skills are layered on top of one another, which makes it less overwhelming,” said Denise Trafton, residential service director at Journey House.
Journey House is a program of AFI grantee Penquis Community Action Program, which operates an IDA program out of its Asset Development Division. The AFI project serves all eligible residents in Knox, Penobscot, and Piscataquis counties, but because it’s housed at a community action agency, the project often finds interested applicants among other agency programs.
Staff from Journey House teach workshops on financial management, and present the 4-to-1 match IDA as a way to build resources for school, buying a home, or starting a business. The young mothers are usually interested in saving for post-secondary education, which is seen as key to their future success. Most of them are receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and are not necessarily working. Those who participate in the IDA work to deposit at least $5 to $10 they earn from babysitting or similar jobs.
Because the staff at Journey House see how the IDA and its related activities build young mothers’ self-sufficiency, they eagerly support them every step of the way. Maternity group homes like Journey House seek to build the skills and knowledge the young people will need as they encounter the complex pieces of the adult financial world.
Young mothers have especially good motivation to build these skills. “The experience of becoming a parent helps to open a lot of young people’s eyes maybe sooner than some of their peers to the realities of financial planning, thinking long-term, and looking into the steps you can take now to create a strong and stable future for your children,” commented Trafton.
Runaway and Homeless Youth (RHY) Programs – both maternity group homes and the transitional living programs for non-parenting youth – can be good referral partners for your AFI project. They already provide coaching and case management, and asset building is a concept that RHY Program staff understand and value.
When RHY Program grantees participating in a recent AFI webinar were asked about the asset building programming they already provided, 89 percent said they offered financial education and 29 percent said they provided help with EITC and benefits access. The same pool of grantees most wanted to help youth build a habit of savings, long-term thinking and planning, and moving past living paycheck-to-paycheck. They value asset building programs that connect youth to other important community resources that the youth can access beyond the services from the RHY Program, and that the youth can continue to access after they are living independently.
This article originally ran in the IDAresources.org Update Newsletter on 10/06/11 and is available for archival purposes.