EDITOR'S NOTE: This article is the last in a three-day series of articles with a focus on teenage pregnancy in Chautauqua County. Previous articles in the series can be viewed by visiting www.post-journal.com
Enrollment in Jamestown's TEAM program is at one of its lowest points.
The Teenage Education and Motherhood program provides education, counseling and support services for young mothers and their children. The program makes it possible for young women to complete their high school education, while also concentrating on prenatal care and parenting education.
"Our enrollment right now isn't as high as it has been at times. Right now, the enrollment in the nursery has declined, and sometimes, that doesn't reflect the enrollment of students, because it depends on how many students we have who already have children, and how many we have who are pregnant. Right now, we have quite a few who are pregnant, so there are fewer children in the nursery," said Judy Gustafson, TEAM director.
There was a time in the past, however, where the program had very high enrollment.
"There was a time in the late '70's and the early '80s when teen pregnancy was much higher. There were much higher rates than there are now, and our program would be full with a waiting list all the time," Gustafson said.
Enrollment being down is something Gustafson attributes to better education. She also credits Dr. Robert Berke, former Chautauqua County health commissioner, who developed an education program about healthy, responsible behavior.
"In kindergarten, that might be brushing your teeth. But, that health curriculum evolves into the information that they need, as they get older, to protect themselves. There was also specific education that was being provided for pregnancy prevention and then, I think, increasing access to the family planning clinics, so that teenagers had more access to birth control if they needed it. I think those three things led to a reduction in rate," Gustafson said.
See TEAM, Page A8
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In 2007, the Young Father's program began. It helps with case management and parenting for teenage fathers and the male partners of the young women enrolled in the TEAM program.
"It's definitely needed. A lot of people forget about the dads. They're lost in the wind, sometimes," said Matt Stone, Young Father's program director.
The TEAM and Young Father's programs are voluntary. TEAM is for young women from the ages of 12 to 19 who are at least four months pregnant or have a child under the age of 2.
"They can still come when their child is 2, but we usually try to place the children in a different childcare setting. By the time the child is 3, they really need to be with their peers, and not with babies, for their own development. We have had students that have stayed in the program after their children have turned 3, but what we do is cooperate with the YW's childcare and have the child there. It's close by, so they can drop the child off there, and they can still be in our program," Gustafson said.
Although the program has a partnership with the Jamestown Public Schools, students from other schools are also included.
"We have students from Southwestern. And, we have had Chautauqua Lake recently. There have been other districts that have participated in the past. At one time, many years ago, Falconer participated they don't now. Frewsburg participated at one point, and they don't now. Panama did, now they don't. But, right now, we have Southwestern and Jamestown. And, if Chautauqua Lake had a student that they wanted to send to us to participate, they probably would," Gustafson said.
The partnership between the YWCA and Jamestown Public Schools helps to divide financial responsibility. The Jamestown Public Schools funds the program through its general fund and also has received grants that help pay for the program.
Additionally, there are several other grants that the program receives in order to ensure the education of the young women enrolled.
The YWCA portion of the program is funded through the Department of Social Services Childcare Reimbursement. There is additional funding available through a variety of foundations.
Meanwhile, the classroom space, located on the Chadakoin building's second floor, is paid for through the Jamestown Public Schools.
Like any other area school, students living outside the district pay tuition in order to attend.
Often, Gustafson said, students will find out about their pregnancy at a school-based health center or a nurses office. At that point, the health-center will make a referral to the TEAM program, and ask the girl if it is all right to give her name to the program.
"Then, our social worker will contact the student, usually at the high school, set up a meeting and visit with them there, and explain to them what is available. If they are interested, then they come over for a tour, and they might fill out an application. Then, we do an interview and we enroll them," Gustafson said.
Unless the student is over the age of 18, parents are required to sign a permission slip, in order to enroll their daughter in the TEAM program.
Some students know about the program from sources other than a health professional, though.
"My stepsister was actually in (TEAM) before me, so she told me about it. That, and the school nurse at the time gave me the information. So, having Jolinn was a definite. There was no considering abortion or adoption, just because of my beliefs. I don't think I could emotionally prepare myself for that," said Katie.
Fifteen-year-old Joyce had a situation similar to Katie's.
"I found out that I was pregnant when I was six weeks, and then I ended up talking to the social worker (at TEAM). We talked about the program, and then she set up the interview with me. I started when I was about 25 weeks pregnant, I think, and I've been here ever since. I didn't even know they had a program here for it until my sister, who goes here, told me that I should come to TEAM. So, I asked the school about it, and they made an interview with the social worker here," Joyce said.
Some of the girls, though, don't become involved in the TEAM program until after they have delivered their child. Ashley, an 18-year-old student, is one such case. Although she knew about the program while she was pregnant, Ashley said that she did not think that she needed it. Since attending the program, however, Ashley said that she has learned a lot about being a mother.
To read Katie, Joyce and Ashley's stories visit the Features tab under the Lifestyles section at www.post-journal.com
YOUNG FATHER'S PROGRAM
The seven young men involved in the Young Father's program are there by their own choice.
"I get referrals from some of the schools. A lot of them are dating or are the dads for the girls here. A lot of them, somebody has heard about the program, they find the number and they give me a call," Stone said.
Stone said the teenage fathers have to grow up as quickly as the teenage mothers, and the ones that he has taught over the three years that he has been involved in the program have definitely stepped up to the plate.
"They want to help. They don't want to be that bum dad. They want to be the one that can support the family," Stone said.
To do this, Stone meets with the fathers several times a week. He said that often, there will be pizza and wings involved in the meetings. Additionally, the fathers have a workbook and study guide that they work out of.
The workbook covers everything from "What do you think being a 'good dad' means?" to going through the pregnancy of their partner, learning about development and birth, caring for a newborn and disciplining a child.
Throughout the workbook, Stone discusses with the fathers the thoughts, feelings and concerns that they are having.
"A lot of them want support. They don't want to be the way that they grew up, a lot of them it wasn't very good, and they don't want to fall into that cycle. They want to support their family, they want to be like a mom or dad," Stone said.
WORKING WITH TEAM
The girls enrolled in the TEAM program acknowledge that without it they would not be able to continue their education or learn about parenting.
"If they didn't have TEAM, I don't know where any of these teen parents would be. They have, like, everything here. They do so much for us. The learning isn't easier, but they break (lessons) down more for people that need it. They have a lot to offer here," Joyce said.
Katie, who is now 22, said that although it was hard at times, she was still able to get through the program and graduate. Her daughter Jolinn, now 5-years-old, had respiratory health problems, something that Katie was unprepared to handle at a young age.
"I couldn't go out and hang out with friends, I had to stay home and constantly watch her. There was a fear there, because she stopped breathing when she was 28 days old, so there was a fear that was constantly in my head. School was really hard. With her being sick, we missed a lot of days," Katie said.
Ashley's 2-year-old son, Alex, is working on potty-training, something that she has been learning about through the TEAM program.
"This is my third year. I have learned lots about parenting. Like, they give you better advice on like how to be a better parent, and what you should know about parenting and disciplining. Right now, I'm trying to learn about potty training, which is really hard," Ashley said.