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Theories & Approaches
Two Case Studies
The StartRight/Teen MOMs Program
The StartRight/Teen MOMs Program is a multifaceted program housed in a teen center located within a large urban clinic/hospital of Truman Medical Center (TMC) in Kansas City, MO. The teen center is a resource and learning center open to all teens, many of whom are part of a large underserved and/or uninsured population receiving services at the hospital.
The StartRight/Teen MOMs Program actively involves youth in the design, implementation and evaluation of program components through a teen advisory council, focus groups, and other advocacy activities. The program provides an array of structured education and service programs, such as: life skills training; displays on a range of topics such as nutrition, prenatal care, sexually-transmitted diseases and substance abuse; a relatively new Father Support Program; educational materials (i.e., videos CD-ROMs access to Internet health websites); and services that link the adolescents from prenatal care to adolescent health care and family planning services.
The goal of the StartRight/Teen MOMs Program is to build the resiliency necessary for pregnant and postpartum adolescents to make a successful transition to a full and independent adult life. StartRight/Teen MOMs has been in existence for more than eight years, and many key staff members have been in place since the program began. One component of the program is a one-to-one adult-to-youth mentoring program.
StartRight/Teen MOMs Mentoring Program OverviewThe objectives of the StartRight/Teen MOMs Mentoring Program are to help teen mothers delay second pregnancies to beyond the teen years, teach teens life skills, and encourage teens to develop and pursue education and career goals. As stated earlier, mentoring is just one component of the program — youth are encouraged to take advantage of the other services offered through the StartRight/Teen MOMs Program. Currently, the mentoring program is strong and stable, with 15 active teen/mentor relationships in place.
Like many other one-to-one mentoring programs, the basic expectation of the program is that the mentors meet one-on-one with pregnant or parenting teens on a regular basis. During the meetings, mentors provide guidance and support with the goal of establishing a trusting relationship between the pregnant or parenting teen and the caring adult mentor.
Like most successful mentoring relationships, mentors consistently go beyond program requirements to help their teens. Many mentors actively help to make community referrals for housing, childcare, transportation, WIC, etc. They help teens re-enter school and/or develop future goals regarding career plans. Because of their mentors, several teens remain committed to the program after they graduate and become peer role models to other teens.
The program also offers monthly group activities for the teens ranging from educational activities to social activities such as crafts or picnics.
Overview of the Program Operation
- Staffing and Coordination
In addition to a portion of a Program Manager's time, the day-to-day responsibilities of the program are managed by a mentor coordinator and supported by two team leaders and an administrative assistant.
Unlike many mentoring programs that utilize volunteer mentors, the StartRight/Teen MOMs Program uses paid mentors to help ensure that program requirements are met. Mentors are expected to maintain four one-to-one relationships with teens and are paid 10 hours per week. Mentors are hired through an intensive interview process that includes a thorough background check and the completion of a mentor training.
- Youth Mentees
The Mentoring program is voluntary with teens referred to the program through TMC's Adolescent Obstetrics Clinic, other hospitals, schools, the public health department, and word of mouth. The typical teen in the program is usually between the ages of 13 and 18.
- Screening, Training and Matching
The mentoring coordinator does an intake assessment with each potential teen according to an established screening process, and then, according to a defined matching protocol, the teen is matched with a mentor. At that point, a face-to-face meeting is held between the mentee, mentor, and coordinator.
- Supporting the Match
Following the initial meeting, the mentor and mentee then begin to develop the mentoring relationship. Team leaders oversee and support the match over time through contact with the mentor and mentee, structured activities, and facilitation of a structured closure at the end of the relationship.
Program OutcomesAn annual evaluation of the StartRight/Teen MOMs program is conducted by the Institute for Human Development from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. As stated earlier, the objectives of the program is to reduce subsequent pregnancies for teenage mothers, increase life skills and encourage academic and career goals. The repeat pregnancy rate for teens in the same geographic area is about 25%, but for youth in the StartRight/Teen MOMs program, the rate is less than 4%. More than 75% of the teens are consistently using birth control.
In addition, more than 95% of the teens either remain in school or achieve success in an alternative educational program (i.e., G.E.D.). More than 40% of the older teens in the program are working and more than 80% plan some type of educational program beyond high school.
Program Challenges and Barriers
Like most social service non-profit programs, the typical challenges that face the StartRight/Teen MOM program include finding program sustainability, having limited resources and needing support with program administration and quality.
Another challenge in working with teen mothers is that parenthood does not automatically bestow maturity and responsibility. The youth in the program are still developing physically, cognitively, emotionally, and socially. Even as parents, teens can sometimes be egocentric. For example, if a more interesting personal or social engagement arises, a teen might miss a mentoring appointment or meeting time — many times without calling to cancel a meeting with her mentor.
Another challenge has been in the development of a corollary male involvement program. In this area, StartRight is not alone. (See Male Involvement under ReCAPP's Theories and Approaches.) Past attempts at male involvement programs using several different approaches have not been successful. However, in 2003, StartRight began a pilot male mentoring program for teen dads. StartRight has trained four male mentors who will be matched with teen dads. As a pilot program, the male mentoring program is slowly feeling its way through the development and implementation process.
Words of Advice
- Setting up a program takes time, and initially there are more set backs than movements forward.
- The program needs to have buy-in from the community and other professionals working with your program. Gaining stakeholder buy-in takes time, but once established, it becomes an important aspect in implementing the program.
- Mentors and staff members have to be persistent in building the trust of the teen mothers, as many of these teens have been let down repeatedly by "caring adults." In that trust-building process, the teens will "try" everyone in the program to test the program's commitment and durability. As a result, mentors and program staff members must be persistent and consistent in words and actions. Consistency builds trust and blunts or preempts the conflict between youth and mentors.
- Mentoring is difficult and requires a commitment. But, as the StartRight/Teen MOMs program has demonstrated, the resources, time, and emotional commitment are truly worth it.
StartRight/Teen MOMs Program Manager
Truman Medical Centers, Inc.
2301 Holmes Street
Kansas City, MO 64108
The StartRight/Teen MOMs Program Expansion
In 2001, the core StartRight/Teen MOMs Program was expanded from the inner city hospital location to a second location. The expansion of the StartRight Mentoring Program serves Eastern Jackson County, largely comprised of the "suburbs" of Kansas City, MO.
The program expansion was funded by the competitive grant award of an Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), Juvenile Mentoring Program (JUMP). The Juvenile Mentoring Program (JUMP) supports one-to-one mentoring projects for youth at risk of failing in school, dropping out of school, or becoming involved in delinquent behavior, including gang activity and substance abuse. (ojjdp.ncjrs.org/jump)
The JUMP-funded StartRight/Teen MOMs Program has the program goal of building the resiliency necessary for pregnant and postpartum adolescents to make a successful transition to a full and independent adult life.
Overview of the ProgramThe objective of the JUMP-funded StartRight/Teen MOMs Mentoring program is, first and foremost, to support teen moms in preventing a repeat pregnancy. Additionally, consistent with the JUMP grant requirements, the program also focuses on structured academic-oriented outcomes.
Mentors and youth meet weekly for at least one hour. If circumstances preclude a face-to-face meeting, then the mentor and teen have at least 30 minutes of telephone contact (this might, for example, be two, 15-minute conversations). Additionally, all of the teens AND mentors meet once a month for social time to share stories, do something fun (usually a craft), and spend time in a supportive environment.
In addition to mentoring, the teens are offered a Parenting Points class through the school district. Currently, there are 13 active teen-metnor matches.
Overview of the Program Operation
- Staffing and Coordination
In addition to a portion of a program manager's time, the day-to-day responsibilities of the program are managed by a single mentor coordinator. A program assistant will soon join the staff.
Unlike the original StartRight/Teen MOMs Program that uses paid mentors, the mentors in the JUMP-funded program are volunteers. Each volunteer is matched in a single one-to-one relationship with a pregnant or parenting teen. Mentors are expected to complete a thorough and intensive screening process that includes a background check and a mentor training.
- Youth Mentees
The typical teen inquires about the program herself, is referred by a partnering agency, or hears about the program through the program's other recruiting efforts.
- Youth Screening, Training and Matching
The Mentor Coordinator meets with interested teens, usually through a home visit, and completes an "intake" that includes a completed application, preference form (used for matching the teen with a mentor), and consent forms, signed by the teen and her parents/caregiver.
The teen is then informed of the next step in the process — an initial match meeting. While the match is pending, the teen is added into the database and invited to all program activities so that she can meet other teen moms and acclimate herself to the program environment.
In a format similar to the TMC-based program, the mentor Coordinator matches a teen with a mentor, according to a defined matching protocol. At that point, a face-to-face meeting is held between the mentee, mentor, and coordinator.
- Supporting the Match
The mentor coordinator also has the responsibility of overseeing and supporting the match over time through contact with the mentor and mentee, structured activities, and facilitation of a structured closure at the end of the match. One effective support structure is a mentors-only meeting held every other month. Aside from conducting program business, the meetings provide opportunity to share successes and for peer-to-peer problem-solving for mentor/youth problem (or potential problem) situations. This is also a way to support the mentors in general, and ensure that they are a part of a program with focus and that their volunteer time is really spent "making a difference."
Program OutcomesThe JUMP-funded StartRight/Teen MOMs Mentoring Program is included in the annual evaluation of the StartRight/Teen MOMs Program conducted by the Institute for Human Development from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and demonstrates similar outcomes related to repeat pregnancies. In fact, the current repeat pregnancy rate for this mentoring program is zero.
In addition, as a grant requirement, the program collects data for a national evaluation of the OJJDP JUMP initiative. More information on the JUMP national evaluation can be found at the website of Information Technology International (ITI). (www.itiincorporated.com/jump.htm)
Program Challenges and BarriersThe JUMP funding for the StartRight/Teen MOMs mentoring program extends through Spring of 2004. However, long-term sustainability remains a concern.
Another challenge for the program is related to the replication and required adaptation of the original TMC-based StartRight/Teen MOMs Program in order to conform with the federal requirements associated with the JUMP-funding.
A third challenge relates to working with the teen parent population. There is a wide array of challenges and high level of stress that these young women face on a day-to-day basis. This stress can translate to the mentors, both in frustration at the teen's cycles of behavior and apparent lack of commitment to the relationship, and, at times, direct exposure to some of the teen's stressors.
Words of Advice
- Pregnancy prevention is linked to a cluster of risk factors, and although the StartRight/Teen MOMs Mentoring Program seeks to prevent second pregnancies, the importance of mentoring as a first-time pregnancy prevention strategy could well be a relevant strategy in protecting against these risk factors.
- As a relatively new mentoring initiative, this program has undergone all of the normal growing pains of a new program. A key to success, both during start-up and even for more mature programs, is to SUPPORT, SUPPORT, and SUPPORT the mentoring staff including both paid staff member and volunteer mentors. The collective spirit of teamwork and commitment is directly proportional to the quality of mentoring. Without teamwork and commitment, there would be no program, or at least not a strong one with consistent and measurable successes. Supporting the entire mentoring team automatically supports the teens served.
- Even though a teen's direct "contact" is usually with a mentor, staff members need to remember that they are "mentors" to all involved in the program. For example, when staff members are part of a teen's structured support, they might receive a page from a teen on the weekend to talk about a crisis situation because of the teen's personal preference or due to the teen's inability to reach her mentor.
Again, mentoring is about the collective team and if this is a clearly shared vision, then the mentoring program will be stronger. In the case of the JUMP-funded StartRight/Teen MOMs Mentoring Program, that strength is best captured in a program's slogan coined by on the teens, "Mentors making a difference, one mom at a time."
Amie J. Jurgensmeyer, MSW
StartRight Teen MOMs
3210 S. Lee's Summit Rd.
Independence, MO 64055
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