Social service program reaches out to teen moms in foster care, offers opportunities

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A 20-year-old program designed for teenage mothers who are in foster care has become a safe haven for the young ladies, despite society often writing them off.

A 20-year-old program designed for teenage mothers who are in foster care has become a safe haven for the young ladies, despite society often writing them off.

But finding foster homes for teenagers with children is no easy task as many foster parents shy away from the additional responsibilities that go along with caring for babies. Still, Childserv, a local social service agency, has made it its mission to help these disadvantage mothers.

“Our teenage mom program was created to provide specialized care and assistance to these young mothers and their children, who often have nowhere else to turn for guidance and resources,” said Elizabeth Heneks, vice president of programs for Childserv. “Being a juvenile with a child to care for is hard enough. Now just imagine being 13 or 14, expecting or already caring for a baby and also living in a foster home.”

Over the last year, there were 7,872 children in foster care in Illinois, Heneks explained.

Many of the young mothers placed by Childserv are Black, said James Jones, CEO of the agency.

“About 80 percent of the teen moms we place are Black and usually have behavioral or drug problems or is a runaway,” Jones said.

The agency helps girls and women between the ages of 13 and 20 who have given birth as well as ones who are pregnant, and is contracted with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to place up to 20 teens a year. In 2008 it placed 12 mothers in foster homes. In 2008, it placed 12 mothers in foster homes.

The teen mom program is funded by DCFS which also refers teen moms in foster care to Childserv.

Through the teen mom program, Heneks said clients like Karnecia (last name withheld to protect her privacy) receive such services as parenting classes, referrals to health care providers and early intervention services, individual and group therapy, and child developmental monitoring.

“A lot of the aid we provide is in the form of counseling. Many of these teenagers have emotional and behavioral issues that could prevent them from being capable, caring parents to their children,” Heneks said. “We are looking out for the child as well his or her mom.”

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