Layla is 17. Her mom works at a local fast-food place and often picks up additional shifts. Layla applied for a few jobs too, but no one wanted to hire her. Now, she mostly watches TV and hangs out with her boyfriend after school. She found out today that she’s pregnant.
Her mom loves her but they are dangerously close to eviction and her mom can’t afford to support a baby, too. They have been homeless before and Layla is not looking forward to living in a car again.
Foundation House Ministries was developed to help young pregnant women face these and other barriers to successful lives. Suzanne Burns, executive director of Foundation House Ministries, says, “I struggled with the basics — child care, keeping a job, paying rent, and buying groceries. Those early years are so critical. As a single parent in the jobs I qualified for, I constantly juggled the threat of being fired with caring for my son.”
Imagine the circumstances of many teenagers, Burns said. “Pregnancy frequently means dropping out. Only 40 percent of teen mothers graduate. Repeat pregnancies are common too.”
She added that teens are 30 percent more likely to have additional teen pregnancies.
Burns gave an example of Serena, a young woman — pregnant and a high school dropout without much job experience. She was a junior at a local college until she discovered her pregnancy. She doesn’t have enough experience to get a decent job and can’t continue toward her degree until after the baby is born. She doesn’t know how she will survive and is currently living with friends.
The recent economic challenges have made it difficult for youth to find jobs, Burns said. “Many older workers now hold positions previously filled by teens — cashiers, fast food-workers and so forth.”
While the unemployment rate for adults has fluctuated between 8 and 10 percent in the last two years, the rate for teenagers has consistently stayed above 35 percent. Burns said it becomes a vicious cycle — low education equals low job prospects; low job prospects equal low wages and job insecurity.
The taxpayer cost of caring for her and her child, through food stamps, WIC, TennCare, Head Start and other government programs is astronomical, Burns said. “Factor in that sons of teen mothers are more likely to go to prison and daughters are more likely to repeat the teen pregnancy cycle,” she continued, “not to mention lost revenue from lost wages and society’s cost for this one young woman and her child runs into the tens of thousands of dollars, just in the first five years of the baby’s life alone.”
In a survey, Tennessee ranks in the Top Ten Worst States for teen pregnancy, and Bradley County ranks 40th in the state (1 being best).
According to Burns, at Foundation House, young women in need are welcomed into a safe home environment, where they don’t have to worry about where they will sleep, how they will eat or who will drive them to their doctors’ appointments.
While in the program, each woman furthers her education, whether in school or GED prep classes. Partnering with other local agencies like New Hope, Family Promise, The Refuge and Christian Women Job Corps, Foundation House provides classes on nutrition, parenting, financial literacy, anger management, conflict resolution, Bible studies and more.
The greatest contribution to each woman is job skills training. Through a home-based business (scheduled to open later in 2013), each woman will receive both instruction and hands-on training in customer service, marketing, Web maintenance, social media, bookkeeping, the “soft skills” of being a team player, pursuit of excellence, interview skills and so forth.
Each resident will graduate with a solid resume and the skills necessary to not only get a good job but to keep a good job.
Editor’s Note: Opening in May, Foundation House is raising $55,000 for its first-year operating expenses. Current commitments total nearly $30,000. Donations of money, home furnishings, clothing, food, toiletry items and so forth are greatly appreciated. (See www.foundationhouseministries.org for a complete list of needs.) Foundation House is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, so all gifts are fully tax-deductible. Volunteer teachers are needed, also, to teach Bible studies, crafts, tutoring, cooking classes, parenting and nutrition classes (weekly, monthly, or quarterly). A great need is for mentors. Each mentor will work with a young woman throughout the program to ensure that every resident is supported for success! For more information or to donate, call Suzanne Burns at 400-2753; email firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit www.FoundationHouseMinistries.org.