In early 2013, I was sitting in my graduate advisor’s office when she mentioned that the local job and family services staff had visited her recently and asked for help on a local problem. They had been tracking the data and discovered a disturbing trend. It seemed the child abuse reports tended to spike during the weeks leading up to finals. The agency wanted to do something to address the amount of stress student-parents were under and to connect them with resources in the community so they would feel supported well before they were at their breaking point.
I partnered with them to create the Young Mom Summit, a half-day conference for young parents in Northeast Ohio. We will have workshops on budgeting, careers, stress management and more, all presented by former teen parents. The attendees at the first event will help craft future events. It has been a long time coming, I’m thrilled it is finally happening!
But the journey to put on this event has opened my eyes even further to where young parents rank in terms of community priorities. I opened registration and the first five registrants weren’t even from Northeast Ohio - they were signing up from Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, signaling that there was a major need for this type of event, where young parents can come together in supportive spaces.
It’s not there isn’t any support for young parents in many communities, but all too frequently, they do not collaborate. One group that’s serving young parents might not know what the others are doing. That leaves room for trends like the child abuse correlation to go undetected.
With so many teen parents feeling isolated and alone, ensuring they feel their voice is being heard is one of the best things we can do. I’ve had to consider the fact that I don’t know what’s best for teen parents - sometimes we have to step back and ask them what they need. And then listen.
For more information on the summit, visit the official website: www.youngmomsummit.com.