Teen HOPE programs helps teen parents find their path

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by Maria Elena Baca, Public Affairs Officer, Hennepin County

Adrianna Blackmon’s confidence is contagious. During a tutoring session, Katelyn Williams smiled and sat up a little straighter under Blackmon’s encouragement as the two paged through a study guide for her upcoming biology test.

Both young women participate in a partnership between Hennepin County Health and Human Services and Hennepin Healthcare’s  Teen HOPE program.

The Teen Hope initiative embeds public health nurses in schools to create one-stop resource centers to help pregnant and parenting teens manage their county benefits and their own and their children’s health as they work to continue their education.

Reengaging teen parents

Right now, Teen Hope operates two Reengagement Sites called Pathways to Success located at MCTC, and Brooklyn Center Early College Academy BCECA. To receive their economic benefits through the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP), young moms and dads through age 21, without a high school diploma or GED, have to work or attend school to maintain their benefits. Many do both.

Tracy Gorman is a human services representative for Hennepin County. She works with teens in the program and as a resource for public health nurses. The program, she said, removes some stress for young people who are in very chaotic situations. Stressors such as homelessness, mental health problems, gangs, and learning difficulties can be major barriers to the teen’s success.

“Most people don’t go on public assistance as a first choice,” she said. “They want something better for their lives.”

Program is a conduit to a better life

Referrals to Teen Hope can come from the human services system, from school, or from other community contacts. Hennepin Healthcare provides six nurses, three social workers, and two community health workers. The nurses work with the teens to monitor their attendance, provide health education for the teens and their children, work on parenting skills, and provide guidance for reproductive health care and child spacing. Just as vitally, they help teens keep up on the administration for their benefits — including food, health care, and economic assistance. A missed check can mean a missed rent payment, disruptions in child care or transportation, and ultimately more gaps in school.

Students also can take advantage of other partnerships, such as the Pathways Re-engagement Sites that train students for careers at Hennepin County, as well as other employers. The students’ children receive care in high-quality childcare centers located near their schools.

Finding her path

After Blackmon’s first child was born, their shared bout with the flu meant several days out of school. Her Teen HOPE nurse recommended that she work toward a GED at Pathways. She reached that milestone in four months while pregnant with her second child, and has since transitioned into college-level courses.

In January, she became a member of the Pathways staff as a tutor, as she works toward a human services certification. She works with other students, providing support, encouragement, and academic help. Though she started her education with an eye toward becoming a pharmacy tech, her interests seem to be moving her more toward human services.

The lesson she takes to her work at the college: “There will always be people out there who want you to succeed as much as you do,” she said. “You could become someone’s support and get more support along the way.”

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