In 2007 at 15, Brittany Haymon of Springfield found herself pregnant and scared about where her life was headed. She became one of approximately 700 teens in Vermont who give birth each year.
The typical path these young mothers take is difficult at best. Most drop out of high school. Most end up on welfare. And statistics show that children of teen mothers have more difficulty in school, increased dropout rates and higher incarceration rates than their peers. For taxpayers, these problems build on each other to the tune of over $12 million each year.
Initially, Haymon seemed to be traveling the same rocky path as other teen mothers but then her life took a critical turn.
"I dropped out of school but then I was told about the program," she said.
The program she heard about was "Learning Together," the Springfield Area Parent Child Center's intensive parent training program that provides a high school education, and parenting and job skills all while providing childcare onsite.
"Because of the SAPCC now I have my own apartment and I'm finishing school," Haymon said. "If the Parent Child Center wasn't here, I'd probably be doing nothing."
According to Julie Merrill, Coordinator of the program, its focus has been to give teen mothers from the region the education and skills they need to support their children both financially and emotionally. "If we can help these young women get a diploma, find a job and build a strong family unit, that'll not only help them but build stronger communities in our area," Merrill said.
The program has five basic components: on-the-job experience, academics, parenting, job readiness activities, and interpersonal skills. Participants spend time on the job at Myrtle's Closet Thrift Store, the Center's onsite retail store. They also work at the Center's childcare facilities and at clerical and culinary jobs. SAPCC offers other programs such as playgroups, parenting classes and reading groups to help participants find balance and set realistic goals.