Teen Family Support: Easterseals serving Chicagoland & Greater Rockford Teen Parenting Program
Having a new baby is a challenge for any parent, regardless of their age or experience. But teen parents face an added layer of challenges: they have to balance pregnancy and parenting with school, work, and friendships; they might be unprepared for pregnancy and birth; and there are sometimes fewer supports available for younger parents.
That’s why teen parenting programs are so essential. A good teen parenting program can help you or your adolescent child navigate teen pregnancy and parenting, giving you the services you need to have a safe, healthy pregnancy and a positive parenting experience.
Easterseals serving Chicagoland & Greater Rockford Teen Family Support can help: our teen infant parenting services for teenagers in Winnebago County offer the one-on-one assistance, education, and resources you need during this uncertain period.
Challenges of Teen Parenting
Teen parents face unique challenges in a few different areas:
Many Illinois teen parents struggle to pursue their education while also raising a new baby. The statistics aren’t good: the average pregnant teen completes 0.7 to 2 fewer years of school compared to their classmates. Only half of teen mothers get a high school diploma by age 22, and less than 2% earn a college degree by age 30.
These statistics are troubling, but they’re also understandable. Teens sometimes take time off from school during pregnancy and right after birth, and some of them never return to their education. Other teenagers want to stay in school but can’t manage it while also raising a new baby. Some of them have to start new jobs to support their child, and some of them lose the support of their parents after revealing that they’re pregnant. All of this makes it uniquely difficult for teen parents to prioritize their education.
However, many teen parents complete their high school education and even go to college with the right planning and support. Having support from parents, school workers, family support workers, and teen parenting programs can help teen parents navigate the challenges of new parenthood. Research from Johns Hopkins University shows that pregnant teens with strong social networks are less likely to drop out of high school compared with teens who are more socially isolated, highlighting how important it is that you find people who can help you throughout pregnancy and parenthood. Easterseals Teen Family Support can also help you find employment in Chicago and Greater Rockford that will allow you to balance your job and your education.
Pregnancy and parenting bring lots of lifestyle changes, and many of those changes are opposite to the average teenager’s habits. Just think of all the areas of your life that change with pregnancy and parenting:
- You can’t smoke, drink, use drugs, or drink too much caffeine, since these substances can all cause birth defects or other problems for your baby.
- You need to change your diet to get all the nutrients you and your baby need, like proteins, calcium, iron, and folic acid. You might have to take vitamins or stop eating some foods.
- You might have to change your exercise habits — for example, you might need to avoid high-impact exercises.
- Many new parents struggle to get enough sleep, which is especially challenging for teenagers, who already need to sleep more than the average adult.
- Having a baby can take up a lot of your time, which might affect your social life or the amount of time you can spend on hobbies. It also involves a lot of new responsibilities that many teenagers are unprepared for.
Once again, it is possible to navigate all these problems. With the support of those around you, including Easterseals doulas and family support workers, you can find a way to deal with the new challenges and responsibilities of being a parent. And by participating in prenatal and parenting support groups in your area, you can find other teens who are in the same position, building relationships and sharing information.
Pregnancy and birth change your body, and they sometimes present health risks. Even if you have a completely normal pregnancy, you’ll still have to spend more time at the doctor than you’re used to, and you might experience the stress, confusion, and frustration that come with pregnancy and parenting.
In addition, pregnant teens may be at increased risk for all of the following:
- High blood pressure
- Premature birth
- Having low birth weight babies
Your health also includes your mental health. According to researchers from the University of Texas at San Antonio, teenage mothers are twice as likely to experience postpartum depression as adult mothers. Many teenage parents feel anxious and overwhelmed, facing not only the stress of pregnancy but also the challenges of dealing with parents, romantic partners, new responsibilities, and unexpected changes.
Because of the risk of all of these problems, it’s extremely important that you get the medical care you need. The earlier you get prenatal care, the better your chances of having a healthy pregnancy and delivery. Your healthcare provider can talk to you about all sorts of things, including how you are feeling about your pregnancy, how your body might change during the pregnancy, and how to deal with any side effects like morning sickness.
It might be helpful to work with a doula, a woman who gives nonmedical assistance during pregnancy and labor. Doulas can provide the information and emotional support you need to get through your pregnancy. Easterseals serving Chicagoland & Greater Rockford offers free doula services to any pregnant teens age 19 or younger who live in Winnebago County.
Easterseals Teen Parenting Program
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by all of the unique challenges teen parents face. Thankfully, Easterseals Chicagoland and Greater Rockford Teen Family Support can provide teen infant parenting services to help you and your baby thrive. All Easterseals Teen Family Support services are free and voluntary.
Just take a look at some of the resources Easterseals Teen Family Support has to offer:
Doulas and Family Support Workers
Easterseals Serving Chicagoland and Greater Rockford offers free doula services to pregnant teens age 19 and younger in Winnebago County. Although many people in the United States are unfamiliar with their work, doulas are one of the most important supports a new parent can have.
Doulas are trained professionals who can help teen mothers before, during, and after the birth of their child. They can visit you at home and in local hospitals, offering a wide range of resources:
- Doulas can help you prepare for the experience of giving birth.
- They can stay by your side as you give birth, making sure that all your needs are met.
- They can advocate for you in your interactions with healthcare professionals as you give birth.
- They can provide the support, comfort, and information you need to make the best decisions for you and your baby.
As of 2013, only 6% of American mothers used doulas. But doulas can have an extremely positive impact on birth outcomes. One study found that women who worked with a doula had better outcomes on all of the following measures:
- They were four times less likely to have a baby with low birth weight.
- They were two times less likely to have complications during birth.
- They were more likely to initiate breastfeeding.
- They had increased self-efficacy because of their doula’s communication and encouragement.
Other research indicates that doulas can have even more positive effects:
- Women who had continuous support from a doula saw a 39% decrease in the risk of cesarean section (C-section).
- Their labor was 41 minutes shorter, on average.
- They had a more than 31% lower chance of being dissatisfied with their birth experience.
All of this highlights just how much a one-on-one relationship with a doula can improve your pregnancy and birth experience.
And doulas aren’t the only Easterseals professionals who can help you with your pregnancy and parenting. Easterseals Serving Chicagoland and Greater Rockford also offers the free services of family support workers.
These professionals can provide all kinds of support and information. While you’re pregnant or adjusting to becoming a parent, family support workers can speak with you about any of the following:
- Having a healthy pregnancy, labor, and delivery
- Challenges with breastfeeding
- Understanding your baby’s learning, development, and behavior
- Staying healthy and keeping your baby healthy
Family support workers can also provide technical services like developmental screenings, which help you make sure your baby is growing and learning normally. Family support workers can refer you to other services that can help your child and give you ideas for ways to bond with your new baby, like arts and crafts, belly casts, and journaling.
Prenatal and Parenting Support Groups
While one-on-one teen pregnancy and parenting support is great, sometimes you need the assistance of a larger group of people. Meeting other teen parents can be a great way to swap resources, build relationships, and understand the experiences of other people who have gone through the same thing. Remember, you’re not the only one dealing with the challenges of teen pregnancy and parenting: every year, about 5% of American teenage girls experience pregnancy.
That’s why Easterseals Serving Chicagoland and Greater Rockford also offers prenatal and parenting support groups for both mothers and fathers. These groups, as well as our other events and activities, offer a way for you to learn more about pregnancy, birth, and parenting alongside other teens.
To explore these resources and more, check out the Easterseals Teen Family Support brochure.
Tracking Child Development
In addition to the unique challenges of being a teen parent, you might be asking the questions all parents encounter when they have a new baby: Is my baby developing normally? How can I make sure? What can I do to help my baby meet developmental milestones?
All children develop differently, and it can be hard to tell whether your baby is on track or whether they’re showing early warning signs of a developmental disability. But monitoring your baby’s growth is crucial: the first few years of your child’s life are some of the most important.
That’s why Easterseals serving Chicagoland & Greater Rockford offers so many tools to help you measure your baby’s development and access the services you need.
- Check out Easterseals Make the First Five Count resources to learn about child development and how you can help your baby grow. You might want to take the Ages & Stages Questionnaire, which can help you identify whether your baby is showing signs of a developmental delay.
- Learn about the early warning signs of a developmental delay and the milestones your child should be reaching every few months.
- Explore our guide to early intervention services, which are services for young children under the age of 3 who have a developmental delay or are at risk for one. In Illinois, babies with adolescent parents are sometimes eligible for early intervention services. Contact your local Child and Family Connections to learn more.
- You might even be eligible for home visiting, a program for Illinois parents of children under the age of five. In the Easterseals home visiting program, a certified Parent Educator visits you twice a month to help you understand your child’s development, improve your parenting skills, and get your kid ready to start school. The service is evidence-based and completely free.
All of these teen pregnancy and parenting resources, from doula services to support groups, can help you learn about the five key areas of child development:
- Relationships: Having a strong relationship with your child is essential for them to feel safe and build their social-emotional skills. Easterseals support groups can help you develop a stronger relationship with your baby in the company of other teen parents. Family support workers and doulas can also help you build a relationship with your child by providing Family Administered Neonatal Activities, or FANA, which can enhance the bonding experience between you and your baby.
- Exploring and Learning: Kids need to have opportunities to explore and problem solve so they can learn about the world around them. Easterseals staff can teach you the tools and skills you need to help your child explore safely.
- Communication: Smiling at, talking to, reading to, and listening to your baby can all help your baby develop. Doulas and family support workers can provide resources and help you practice these skills if you’re not sure how to interact with your new child.
- Playing: Acting silly with your kids is very important since it helps children develop social, emotional, language, physical, and intellectual abilities. Easterseals professionals can offer ideas, from arts and crafts to toys, that you can use while playing with your kid. They can also put you in touch with community resources to help your kids play and explore.
- Moving: Physical movement is important for your child’s physical growth. Once again, our teen family support staff can assist you so that you can let your child move and grow safely.
Easterseals Teen Family Support can help you in so many ways, from finding a job to bonding with your new baby. There’s only one question left: how can you access these resources?
Accessing Teen Infant Parenting Services
From doulas to support groups to teen parenting programs, there are so many resources for teens experiencing pregnancy and parenting. The best way to start accessing those resources is to get in touch with Easterseals serving Chicagoland & Greater Rockford. Our Teen Family Support Program Manager can help teens in Chicagoland and Greater Rockford figure out their next steps and get the services they need. Just contact:
Kathleen Kurtz, Program Manager, Teen Family Support
650 North Main Street, Rockford, Illinois 61103
815-965-5069 ext. 1230 Phone
In addition, you might want to explore other resources about teen pregnancy and parenting. All of the following can help you navigate your pregnancy and figure out your next steps.
Most of all, remember that you are not alone. Thousands of other teenagers are in your shoes. Although teen pregnancy and parenting can seem scary or confusing, having the right support can be a total game-changer. Reach out to Easterseals serving Chicagoland & Greater Rockford today at 815-965-5069 and find out what resources are available to you — whether you need one-on-one advice or the reassurance of a support group, we are here to help.
In the News
Watch WIFR's interview with Triasia and Brooklynn about their amazing journey through our Teen Family Support program in Rockford. Learn how we assist pregnant and parenting teenagers living in Winnebago County by developing and improving healthy parent/child relationships and successful child development.
The creation of Teen Family Support Program’s Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting program (MIECHV) was made possible by the by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, which authorizes the creation of the MIECHV program.
A United Way Partner Agency
United Way 211 - Individuals and families in our community need quick access to reliable information that addresses their most critical needs. United Way 211 is an easy to remember telephone number that connects callers with free information and referrals for community services within Ogle and Winnebago counties.
Healthy Families America strives to provide all expectant and new parents with the opportunity to receive the education and support they need at the time their baby is born.
For additional information, please contact:
Kathleen Kurtz, Program Manager, Teen Family Support
650 North Main Street, Rockford, Illinois 61103
815-965-5069 ext. 1230 Phone