Like many high school graduates, Sarah—not her real name—wanted to celebrate her accomplishments. But unlike many of her fellow grads, she had to worry about things beyond whether she should bring sunscreen and a sunhat to her party. Things like, Who will watch my child? Can I afford diapers this month? Where can I find a safe, affordable place to live?
For the past four years, Janell Rottier has helped Sarah and other teen moms find answers to these questions. She is the head of the Teen MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group at First Christian Reformed Church in Crown Point, Indiana.
The church is in Lake County, which has the highest teen pregnancy rate in Indiana. Rottier, who previously worked at a pregnancy resource center, wanted to do more for mothers after they’d had their babies. She learned about Teen MOPS through its magazine.
She organized the group differently than most MOPS groups. Instead of a craft, a speaker, and a time for discussion, each mother is assigned a mentor. The mentors help the young mothers set goals as well as encourage and keep them accountable. “You have to put effort into reaching your goal,” one participant said. “It helps us get more accomplished and better ourselves as mothers and women.”
The group also has access to career assessment tests, financial advisors, and a professional who helps write resumes. Amanda White, another participant in the program, said that not only has she learned how to be a better mom, “I have learned how to love myself again. [Teen MOPS] has been there to celebrate my successes and has been there at my lowest points. I know that I have someone that I can go to with whatever it may be and not be judged or made fun of. I have never had that before in my life.” White is currently a student at Purdue University working toward a B.A. in social work. She has made the dean’s list every semester so far.
Creating a support system for young mothers has not always been easy, Rottier said. “This is a hard type of love.” But, she added, “It is a love that Jesus demands of us.”