Two Generation Program – Supporting Our Young Parents
Written by Sophie Trist
According to the 2018 United Way report, 76% of young single mothers live at or below the ALICE threshold. Many of these young parents and their children become homeless due to substance use disorders, poverty, abuse, or other struggles. In January of 2017, Covenant House created the Two Generation program to help young homeless families achieve stability. In 2018, our Two Gen program served 65 young parents and 94 children. Our wonderful, dedicated Two Gen case manager, Ebonee Craighead, creates an individualized care plan for each family that takes into account the needs of the parent, the needs of the child or children, and the needs of the family as a whole.
Within forty-eight hours of arriving at our crisis center, young families meet with a case manager, and both parents and children receive physical and behavioral health evaluations from our community health partner, Crescent Care. Children’s Hospital Parenting Center provides weekly on-site parenting classes. Parents also take advantage of continuing educational opportunities, as well as job training and financial literacy classes.
This past year, Covenant House has seen an influx of pregnant women. Most of these moms-to-be arrive scared and overwhelmed, with questions about pregnancy, childbirth, and childcare that they’re afraid to ask. Thanks to our partnership with Nurse Nikki, a Family Nurse Practitioner, pregnant women can attend weekly individual and/or group meetings where they can receive information about maintaining health during and after pregnancy, the process of giving birth, breastfeeding, and doula services. Our expectant mothers can hear from a nurse practitioner and a doula, a professional birth companion trained to give physical and emotional support to pregnant women.
The children in our Two Gen program are enrolled in daycare, at our on-site Head Start program run by Catholic Charities, or appropriate grade school. Recent research shows that children’s brains develop more in the first five years than any other time in their lives. A child’s experiences during these first critical years can impact their behavior and learning ability for the rest of their lives. Many children who participate in our Two Gen program (birth to age 6) have endured or witnessed violence, neglect, or substance abuse. Studies indicate that children who have experienced homelessness are more likely to have serious physical and behavioral health problems and lower academic performance. That’s why our Two Gen program ensures that our young children get the emotional and educational support they need to live healthy, happy lives. We also provide opportunities for young families to bond and form positive memories to offset the toxic stress of past experiences. Our young families take trips to the zoo, the park, the Children’s Museum, Disney on Ice, and various movie theaters and casual restaurants.
When they arrive at our doors, our parents and children are often desperate and frightened. Parents may be unsure of how to positively interact with their children, and children may suffer physical and mental health problems. The Two Gen program addresses the unique and complex needs of young families suffering homelessness. We get both parents and children on track for brighter futures.