It’s not easy being a teen parent. Pregnant and parenting teens must tackle the many challenges of parenthood while facing the persistent negative judgment and stigma that’s still so widely associated with teen parenthood. As a result, many teen parents feel isolated and unsupported. This isolation is even greater for teen parents who are experiencing violence and abuse in their families and dating relationships.
In the US, one in three teens reports being a victim of physical, verbal, emotional, and/or sexual abuse from a dating partner. The rates are even higher for pregnant and parenting teen girls and as many as 50-80% of adolescent mothers have been in violent, abusive, or coercive relationships before, during, or after their pregnancies.
Similarly, violence in the family is a very serious issue facing young parents today. A recent report by the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy found that family violence, abuse, and neglect are the leading contributing factors to teen parent homelessness and 80% of homeless young parents have been victims of sexual abuse.
At Casa Myrna, we know the reality behind these statistics all too well. For the last twenty years we have been committed to serving pregnant and parenting teens made homeless by domestic violence through our Teen Parenting Program (TPP), the only program of its kind in Massachusetts. (Other housing programs for teens are not domestic violence specific, and other domestic violence programs are not teen specific.)
TPP provides a safe, empowering, home-like environment where teen parents can work to achieve sustainable self-sufficiency by pursuing their education and professional goals with the help of Casa Myrna’s comprehensive range of supportive services.
Trinity, a 21 year-old mother of an energetic three-year-old son who lives by the mantra “to make things better for the future, you have to make things better now,” is a shining example of the resiliency and strength evident among so many teen parents at TPP. After enduring significant family trauma as well as abuse at the hands of her son’s father, Trinity needed a safe place to live. She came to TPP. Since then, she has successfully graduated from high school and will be starting college in the Fall, excited about studying Economics.
Trinity’s story is not unique. Teen parents at our TPP often juggle multiple commitments, such as school, part-time work, and program activities, with grace and confidence. Last year, 100% of our teen residents achieved their personal and professional goals.
Since its founding in 1993, the Casa Myrna TPP has operated with the support of public and private donors. This year, however, we received a serious financial blow from one of TPP’s major government funders. As of next month, Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) will end its support of TPP, effectively cutting off over $300,000, or half of our program’s annual budget.
This decision is rooted in the agency’s desire to support organizations that can facilitate family reunification. DCF wants to fund teen residential programs that are non-confidential and open to the partners and other family members of teen parents and foster interactions among family members.
While we understand and respect the importance of family reunification, we know this is not a viable option for the teens in our program. For the safety of its residents, Casa Myrna’s program is confidential. Family members and friends are rarely invited to the house. Being in contact with their abusers would gravely jeopardize the physical and emotional safety of TPP’s teens and their children. However, we do work to ensure the teens and their children connect with safe and supportive family members outside the house.
For this reason, we are committed to preserving the integrity of TPP’s mission and will continue to provide safe and confidential services to pregnant and parenting teen survivors of domestic violence. But to continue, we need your help!
Join the campaign to save Casa Myrna’s Teen Parenting Program:
- Donate – your gift will count towards a challenge from the Norman Knight Charitable Foundation who is contributing the first $10,000 towards a $100,000 goal
- Contact Governor Patrick and your legislators and let them know they should fund TPP and more programs like it throughout Massachusetts
- Find us on Twitter and Facebook and share TPP’s story with your friends
About the author: Jenny Efimova is the Outreach and Communications Manager for Casa Myrna, Boston’s leading provider of shelter and comprehensive services to survivors of domestic violence and their children. We provide intervention through three residential programs and supportive services and advocacy, awareness and prevention. We also operate Massachusetts’ only statewide domestic violence hotline, SafeLink. For help, call us at 1-877-785-2020.