Massachusetts Department of Public Health
Building on Strengths to Empower Expectant and Parenting Teens in Massachusetts (2014)
Massachusetts Pregnant and Parenting Teen Initiative (MPPTI) is a community-based program that serves expectant and parenting youth ages 14-24 in five cities across Massachusetts including Chelsea, New Bedford, Holyoke, Lawrence, and Springfield. The five communities identified for MPPTI experience a disproportionate burden of school dropout1, poverty2 , and sexually transmitted diseases3 compared to the state as a whole.
In an effort to address these challenges, Massachusetts Department of Public Health implemented MPPTI to provide a comprehensive support model to help participants. Program goals are to (1) Increase academic achievement through individualized academic and career goals; (2) Improve reproductive health outcomes by delaying subsequent pregnancy; and (3) enhance family stability through increased connection with social and emotional support systems, improved self-sufficiency, and healthy parenting practices.
Estimated to reach approximately 1,000 families in the next four years, MPPTI offers an array of services to participants with a strength-based approach. Services include a weekly check-in with a youth worker who identifies specific needs of program participants and acts as a link with community resources, monthly or bimonthly meetings with an education or employment counselor, and individual or group counseling as needed. The program also offers health education and preventive screenings by an RN approximately every 6 months, and weekly or monthly pre and postnatal groups.
One of the successful components of MPPTI is the Digital Story Telling Project. The project involves developing digital stories to illustrate expectant and parenting youth’s transition into parenthood. The project not only empowers youth to share the challenges of adolescent parenthood, but also teaches youth without technical background to produce work that tells a story using moving images and sound. After the digital stories were recorded, MPTTI launched a digital storytelling event to showcase the stories to community members, program participants, state agencies, and other providers at a movie theater. The stories have also been used for training new MPPTI staff and in parenting groups with young parents. The following is an account from one of the participants.
Even with two children, my life was out of control. Parties, drugs, gangs, and just living that fast life. I thought that was it. I didn’t love myself and therefore I didn’t know how to love my children enough to make a change….it is not that I didn’t know the things I had to do, it is that I had no confidence, no dreams, and no inspiration. Things started to change when I got assigned to a youth worker. At first I put up a wall with her and ignored her calls countless times. But she never gave up. She did it all to help me work toward my GED. It felt good to have one person believe in me even though I kept falling off track. She and I begin to have a great friendship. Not just a youth worker-teen relationship. I attended the program and tried half the time just for her because she always gave me her time and attention. I attended nurturing programs to help me deal with my two beautiful daughters and the third that was on her way. I also attended “Circle” which allowed me to grow and be relieved from a dark past…my past lied to me. It made me believe I was nothing, had nothing, and was never going to be better. When it came to my GED, it was the giant obstacle that wouldn’t let me break out of that tiny miserable world….my GED teacher told me that I was worth way more than I believed—that I was smart and I could do it. I would sit there and say miserable things about myself and [my ability to do] math. But he would constantly fight the negative attitude with words of encouragement. He believed in me more than anyone, more than my mother, and that gave me strength. Once I pushed the negative aside, my brain became like a sponge. I thank God for my youth worker and GED teacher. I have obtained my GED—that is my stepping stone to be a better me. I am inspired, I want to go to college, I will go to college and be whatever I want to be.
MPPTI’s Program Coordinator reports that prior to the program many of their teen parents have never been asked about their strengths. Working with MPPTI program staff to identify their strengths has resulted in a feeling of empowerment and increased their desire to work toward attainment of their life goals. To show gratitude to the program that helped them find their voice, program participants have expressed wanting to give back to the program through peer leadership. MPPTI is hoping to implement this new component in the years to come.
MPPTI Program Coordinator
Providing Innovative Wrap-Around Services for Young Parents (2013)
The Massachusetts Pregnant and Parenting Teens Initiative (MPPTI) provides wraparound services (medial, social, emotional and community supports) to over 500 pregnant and parenting young people ages 14 through 24 in high schools and community centers. The services are located in five high-needs communities in Massachusetts: Chelsea, Holyoke, Lawrence, New Bedford, and Springfield. These communities all have teen birth rates roughly double the national average and between three and five times higher than the statewide average (Mass. Department of Public Health (2010), Births (Vital Records), MA Community Health Information Profile version 3.00 r327). Using funds from the Office of Adolescent Health’s Pregnancy Assistance Fund, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health contracted with community-based agencies in these communities to transform the lives of pregnant and parenting teens. MPPTI has three main goals:
- Achievement of educational and vocational goals,
- Delay subsequent pregnancy, and
- Improve infant health and development.
In order to meet these goals, MPPTI emphasizes social, emotional, and community support for pregnant and parenting young people. To provide such support, the program has adopted a strengths-based approach. Participants work with service providers to identify their educational, employment, and health goals and the barriers they perceive standing in their way to goal achievement. MPPTI service providers reported that many participants have never been asked to identify their strengths. Using this method of engagement, participants feel empowered and desire to work towards attaining their life goals.
In addition to identifying goals and barriers, service providers also assist pregnant and parenting teens by connecting them to resources that address their unique needs. For example, participants are often connected to mental health counseling, social support, childcare, transportation, housing, and/or health care. Each MPPTI location employs case managers, education liaisons, mental health counselors, and home-visiting nurses to assist in supporting and meeting the needs of young parents and their children. In order to maximize participation and help teens connect with their peer participants are offered a hot meal, childcare and transportation.
To learn about one participant’s success in the program, click the link to view her digital story: http://vimeo.com/68626408.
Lissette Gil-Sanchez, Coordinator
Massachusetts Pregnant and Parenting Teen Initiative
Massachusetts Department of Public Health
250 Washington Street 5th Floor
Boston, MA 02108
Content last reviewed on January 26, 2016