BOSTON, Mass. (Ivanhoe Newswire) - Teen parenthood is filled with stressors, and the kids of these young parents can be at higher risk for abuse and neglect. It can also derail future plans. Less than two percent of young moms go on to earn a college degree by age 30. But a thriving, home visiting program is helping young moms and dads defy those odds.
Brittany Bermudez was a high school senior when she learned she was expecting. She graduated but put her college plans on hold. Then there was another surprise at her first ultrasound.
Bermudez told Ivanhoe, "The lady was sitting there and she does this 'oh!' and I'm like 'what's going on?' and she says, 'I see two in there!"
Right after the boys were born, the hospital connected Bermudez with the Healthy Families Massachusetts home visiting program, a home service for first-time parents age 20 and under.
"You get to understand their family dynamics, who they're living with and what might be the potential risks or supports embedded right there," explained Sarita Rogers, the Director of Home Visiting, Massachusetts Children's Trust.
Volunteers teach proper baby care and nutrition and parenting skills. Research suggests this support system is working. Francine Jacobs, EdD, and fellow researchers at Tufts University studied 800 teen moms. Some received home visiting services. Some were offered other support.
"In fact, from the first round of evaluations, we did find that being involved in the Healthy Families evaluation decreased parental stress," detailed Jacobs.
Ann Easterbrooks, PhD., also from Tufts University, told Ivanhoe, "It was effective also in reducing the rates of risky behaviors such as substance abuse."
Researchers found a 31 percent decrease in risky behaviors, and a 36 percent decrease in stress, a risk factor for child abuse and neglect. Through Healthy Families, Bermudez was also connected with a scholarship program.
"It gave me a full ride to the University of Massachusetts," said Bermudez.
Bermudez graduated and is supporting her boys in her new career as a dental hygienist.
According to the research, young people enrolled in the Healthy Families Massachusetts program were twice as likely to complete at least one year of college. Healthy Families America program sites are available in 35 states, and the District of Columbia.
Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising and Field Producer; Milvionne Chery, News Producer; Dave Harrison, Editor and Roque Correa, Videographer.