BarbaraAnn Greer and Jillian Hoiseth, a teacher and a volunteer at the Haverhill Alternative School, encounter four or five girls each year who are pregnant.
Before and after their babies are born, many of the young women become homeless.
“Some [of the girls’] parents are upset with their child and some are so low income they can’t have another mouth to feed,” said Hoiseth.
In many cases, the babies’ fathers are not involved, and the young mothers go from place to place, staying with extended relatives or friends. But that doesn’t always work.
Greer, 46, of Methuen, and Hoiseth, 29, of Salisbury, who volunteers at the school and is a graduate student in social work at Simmons College in Boston, have another plan: Stepping Stones Family Home.
The goal is to provide pregnant teens and young mothers with “a family-style supportive living environment,” they said.
The young women would live together and be taught parenting and child development skills, family role modeling, healthy living, budgeting, and job skills. The program also would aim to provide connections to community resources, as well as the tools necessary for responsibility and independence, and dealing with the challenges of single parenting.
Greer and Hoiseth have their eyes on a property, which includes a main house and a carriage house, and are currently fund-raising. Plans would be for about seven women to live in the main house under supervision while juggling motherhood and school. Each would have a room for themselves and their baby with a common kitchen and living space.
When they graduate high school, they could move to the carriage house with dorm-style living. A house mother would oversee day-to-day activities.
As the mothers go on to their own apartments, a case manager would do follow-up checks, and offer any needed supervision.
“Our biggest vision is we don’t want this to be a program with a stigma,” said Hoiseth. “It is so much more than that. It’s eating dinner together and sharing stories. A lot of these girls come from broken families and now have a child. We want to give them a foundation with us. We are their family and they are each other’s family.”
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