New center to aid young mothers

November 29, 1994|By Ellen Gamerman | Ellen Gamerman,Sun Staff Writer

Work crews still are putting the finishing touches on the first family support center in Annapolis to offer multiple social services under one roof, and already people are walking through the front door looking for help.

"We've had 30 or 50 people stop in already," Tonia Redmond, a secretary at the center, said last week. "I know a lot of young people, young girls in the neighborhood who have babies, and I've told them it's coming soon. The girls want to be able to do their homework while someone tends their baby."

Staff members have been going door-to-door to let Annapolis families know about the new center and have hung a big sign in the center's first-floor storefront window at 80 West St.: "Your Family Support Center -- Coming Soon."

The center, which is to open Monday, will provide services as diverse as child immunizations and career counseling.

"What we're doing is pulling all those together in one place," said Remy Whaley, special program manager for the county's department of social services. "It's all under one umbrella."

The new center will aim its services at teen-age mothers with children up to age 4. Services include employment training, family planning counseling, preventive health care education and parent-child guidance activities.

In the past, Annapolis parents who needed these services had to go to several smaller agencies around the city or travel to the county's only other family support center in Odenton. For many, that meant going without any help at all, Ms. Whaley said.

Some abandoned the Women, Infants and Children program at the county health department headquarters on Truman Parkway after a bus route to the offices was eliminated, she said.

"If a young mother wants to get there, she has to hitch a ride," Ms. Whaley said, adding that in the Clay Street area alone, 82 percent of all residents have no transportation of their own.

The family support center offers two things most of the area's other social service agencies don't: free transportation and child care.

"Before, you could get your GED [general equivalency diploma] training in one place but you wouldn't have family counseling," said Paulette Francois, the center's director. "Or you could get career help, but there wouldn't be any child care."

The center is expected to serve 100 adults and 40 children from Annapolis each week. Eventually seven counselors and a part-time nurse will be on staff, said Ms. Francois, 27, who left her job running a similar program in Somerset County to head up the Annapolis venture.

Ms. Francois has exchanged the conference tables and muted shades of the former lawyers' offices that will house the center for a brightly-colored kitchen, a family room, dens and a playroom.

"It gives parents a place where they can talk and be open and not have to worry about saying the wrong thing," she said. "The whole set-up of the center says 'home,' not 'institution.' "

The center's $150,000 annual budget is funded by Friends of the Family, a nonprofit organization in Baltimore. The group pays for 25 similar programs across the state.

In addition to serving Annapolis, the center will help residents of Arnold, Crownsville, Severna Park and all of South County.

Hours will be Monday through Thursday from noon to 8 p.m. The center can be reached by calling 974-8710.

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