Aberdeen to get support center for teen-age mothers

January 02, 1994|By Phyllis Brill | Phyllis Brill,Staff Writer

The YWCA of Greater Baltimore and the Susquehanna Region Private Industry Council have received $125,500 to create a Family Support Center at the Aberdeen Community Services Building.

The Friends of the Family grant will be used to establish a setting where teen-age mothers can learn parenting skills and gain access to a range of support services that play a part in raising healthy children.

The Baltimore-based Friends of the Family is a private, nonprofit organization that raises money through state grants and private sources to assist families with children under age 4. It supports 19 centers throughout the state, including seven in Baltimore City, and offers them technical assistance and evaluations.

"The major focus of Friends of the Family is to teach young people how to be nurturing parents as well as how to make the transition from being a teen to being an adult," said Barbara Gleason, program developer for the Greater Baltimore YWCA and project manager of the Aberdeen site.

"By focusing on parenting they believe you can strengthen the whole family unit."

Each Friends of the Family-supported center operates a little differently, says Kathleen Ward, the organization's development director, but all offer continuing education classes to teen-age mothers as well as workshops in parenting and child development.

Children under 4 are cared for by a professional staff while their mothers -- and sometimes fathers, too -- attend class.

The Aberdeen center will be housed in the lower level of the old Aberdeen High School on U.S. 40 at Franklin Street, which has been used as a community center since the county took over the building in the mid-1970s.

It was chosen for the Family Support Center because it is already home to many of the services used by needy young families, county officials said, including the county Health Department, the federal WIC nutrition program, county Parks and Recreation programs, and the Private Industry Council, a jobs-training consortium.

County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann broached the idea of housing a family resource facility in the Aberdeen building in the spring, when she allocated $30,000 of the fiscal 1994 budget to start-up costs. At that time, she said the family center would be a "nucleus" around which a network of services for young parents would operate.

Ms. Gleason said the Aberdeen Family Support Center will open around March 1.

Noting that she would like to see parents in the child care rooms with their children, learning from professionals how to handle behavior problems, Ms. Gleason said, "I see a lot of the parent education happening on an informal level.

"It might be something basic, like getting the child to eat at mealtime. My hope is that they can make intervention right on the spot."

She said classes may be organized by age groups, such as the "terrible 2s," or by specific goals, like getting a child into a naptime routine.

In addition, she said young women will get instruction in "basic life skills," such as budgeting, food shopping, time management and family health.

The YWCA will oversee the center, hire staff and coordinate the classes and services, Ms. Gleason said. Harford County will provide the space rent-free, utilities and administrative support from county agencies.

As co-sponsor, the Susquehanna Region Private Industry Council will provide life-skills classes, and eventually, job

readiness training and job search skills.

SRPIC also funds adult basic education classes that are conducted at the site by Harford Community College. Those classes will be open to participants in the Family Support Center, girls who may have dropped out of school when they became pregnant.

"The point is to make sure the young women don't get lost in the system," said Ms. Gleason. "We want to empower them as well as teach them. So that they can learn to take care of themselves. We want the place to become theirs, not ours."

She said eventually the center will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and one or two evenings a week. "We hope to provide child care that whole time."

She said the center expects to serve about 60 women and children a month. In order to continue to qualify for an annual grant of $125,000, Friends of the Family requires the support centers to have regular contact with at least 20 families a month.

Ms. Gleason said the YWCA has never sponsored a Friends of the Family support center before. It got involved in this project because of its successful experience running Harford Community College's day care center, she said.

She said that while the support center will be in Aberdeen, its services will be available free to any teen-age mothers in the county with children under 4. She expects to draw young women and children from throughout the Route 40 corridor, from Edgewood to Havre de Grace.

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