By Kathy Widenhouse, Healthy Babies Project, Inc.
For twenty-five at-risk DC teen mothers, Mother’s Day 2012 was not only their first as new parents or parents-to-be. It was also especially meaningful.
On Monday, May 14, Healthy Babies Project paid tribute to these young women with a special Mother’s Day Dinner Celebration. It was a fitting way to honor one of HBP’s principal constituencies — teen moms enrolled in HBP’s cornerstone Teen Parent Empowerment Program (TPEP) — and the steps these disadvantaged young parents are taking to turn their lives around.
At HBP’s inception in 1991, the District of Columbia had among the highest infant mortality and infant illness rates in the nation — rates on par with some Third World countries. Today, those rates have been cut in half, thanks in large part to HBP. The agency works to reverse this needless cycle of poverty, illness, and despair by equipping at-risk DC families to have healthy babies. Case management, health education, and life skills training are keys to the agency’s success. HBP’s infant mortality rate is nearly two-thirds lower than the District’s; HBP client low birth weight rate is half that of other delivering mothers in DC.
The impact of HBP on this new generation of parents is clear: these young women are determined to parent their children responsibly.
This was my first Mother’s Day with my son. I really appreciate HBP’s efforts in making this a very special occasion for me and him. I also learned a lot about the importance of being a mother. Thanks for encouraging me and giving me the tools to be the best mom ever!
– Briyonna A. (17), mother of 4-month-old Josiah; TPEP participant since October 2011
I didn’t know where and when celebrating Mother’s Day began or took place, so this was an interesting fact to learn during the Mother’s Day Dinner, especially when you think of how BIG Mother’s Day has become and how its celebrated all over the United States. Additionally, it was nice to hear about how my peers felt about their mothers (some felt positive and some negative). I especially appreciated listening to their remarks about what kind of mother they wanted to be with their child. Finally, I loved the way Ms. Regine spoke about how child watches you from Day One. Children learn from what they see. It’s up to “the mom” to set a positive example for the young one.
– Tanequa T. (21), mother of 2-month-old Emery; TPEP participant since September 2011
During this Mother’s Day Dinner, I came to realize that I have learned so much already. We have had the support from the HBP staff. This dinner is just one example. The staff showers us with positive energy, compassion, and encouraging words. HBP is a place where I can vent and have the support I need to learn to parent my child. I loved the Mother’s Day Dinner and hope we have another one next year.
– Royelle J. (19), eight months pregnant with her first child, TPEP participant since January 2012
I completely enjoyed this event! There were great words of wisdom, delicious and yummy food, and awesome company. I love spending time with my peers and other teen moms. Thanks, HBP, for encouraging and empowering me.
– Anika B. (16), mother of 4-month-old Arianna; TPEP participant since September 2011
After a delicious meal provided by HBP partner Tysus Jackson (Director of Development, Children’s Hospital Foundation at Children’s National Medical Center) HBP Executive Director Regine Elie shared “What It Means to Be a Mother” with guests, emphasizing the importance of being an exemplary role model since children always watch and learn from their parents.
Annalee Ash and The Bernstein Foundation, in partnership with the T.H.E. Artist Agency of Georgetown, provided further support for these young women who are turning their lives around by providing each of them with beautiful hand-painted bags with baby supplies, make up, and personal items.
“It’s special to be a mom,” said one participant. “It’s an honor and a responsibility.”
For more information about HBP and its Teen Parent Empowerment Project (TPEP), log onto www.healthybabiesproject.org or contact Healthy Babies Project at (202) 396-2809, 801 17th Street NE, Washington DC, 20002.