Teenage girls have plenty of things to worry about during their day: their hair, clothes, who likes whom, etc. All of these may seem trivial, but it is a time in their lives where worries usually aren’t too serious and entertainment usually has at least some parental supervision. Unfortunately, there are some girls who aren’t so lucky and have much bigger worries, including an unexpected pregnancy.
Grace Home Ministries is a nonprofit organization in Chesterfield that recognizes that teenage years are filled with guilt and abandonment for some girls and are a time when they need mentoring the most.
“We work with girls ages 15 to 21 who have become pregnant and have nowhere to turn,” said Angela Molina, development director at Grace Home. “Our goal is to help them choose life for their babies and a brighter future than the one they may see immediately in front of them.”
Molina said most of the teen moms she works with grew up in dysfunctional families, usually with only one biological parent present. They may have lived in foster care or could be on their own due to poor decision making or misconduct.
Tori found herself in a difficult situation as a teen mom. Her grandmother was her rock and the only source of stability in her life, she said. But not long after Tori’s baby was born, her grandmother died, leaving Tori without a home and feeling hopeless. At her high school one day, Tori stumbled across a diaper drive. Curious, she asked questions, and a teacher told her about Grace Home Ministries.
“We paired her with a mentor and plugged her into a community of other teen moms,” Molina said. It changed her outlook completely. Tori finished high school and is currently a college student studying to be a hospice nurse.
Grace Home Ministries partners with social workers, school nurses and guidance counselors who let Grace know if they discover a teenage mom or mom-to-be who needs support. Grace also get referrals from churches and doctors’ offices.
Most girls are facing the situation alone because they have been abandoned by their families once their pregnancy was revealed. Of the 25 girls who have entered the program, only one father of their children has remained involved with his child.
“What makes our program so special is that we create a new family dynamic,” Molina said. “Their mentors become their new family.” They share and grow from what they are learning from each other. They celebrate holidays together, special occasions like school graduations, and the births of their babies.
The mentoring program lasts for two years and all girls are required to complete high school. If the girls are interested in attending college, then the ministry helps them with the enrollment process and looks for scholarships. They must maintain a
The mentoring program focuses on strengthening the participant’s self-worth. Molina said they have a calendar of teaching events throughout the course. These include basic infant care, self-care, defining relationships and strengthening relationships. “We teach them how to succeed without us, but we are still here to offer guidance,” Molina said.
For a short time, Grace Home Ministries partnered with a local church and operated out of a home. Some of the girls lived in the house with their babies. But maintaining the home became a financial burden that nearly crippled the ministry. “So we redesigned our program model,” Molina said. “We still get three to four calls a month from girls or families looking for a home.” The demand is there, but until the donor base grows, they will continue to conduct the program in borrowed space, like church classrooms.
Grace Home Ministries has a mobile baby boutique with new items like clothing, supplies and nursery equipment. The girls earn shopping credits by completing assignments that enable them to shop. Churches, schools and civic organizations collect diapers, baby food and new infant clothing for the program.
It is a happy and sad day when new moms graduate from the program; happy that their future looks much brighter and they have a new family dynamic, but sad because they are leaving the comfort of an immediate support system.
The girls give back after completing the course. They mentor others, babysit for one another and help with fundraisers.
Grace Home Ministries conducts one major annual fundraiser, a golf tournament sponsored by SonaBank that will be held at The Golf Club at The Highlands on May 10. Sponsorships are still available and golfers still needed.
To learn more about Grace Home Ministries and how to become part of the program as a donor, sponsor, mentor or pregnant teen, go online at gracehomeministries.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (804) 621-2761.