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Partners in Parenting

Partners in Parenting
In Knox County, Extension and the community are making a difference in the lives of teens and their babies

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Adrienne Desrochers found out she was pregnant two months before graduating from high school. She learned about the Teen Parent Program of The University of Maine Cooperative Extension in Knox County soon after.

"They gave me (educational) handouts about how my body would be changing and how the baby would be growing," says the now 20-year-old from Rockland, Maine. "It was information I wanted; I didn't know a thing."

As voluntary participants in the program, Adrienne and the baby's father, Del Randall, receive three years of monthly home visits by one of Extension's two certified parent educators, who support young parents through pregnancy, delivery and their child's early years.

Six weeks before Zachary was born, one of the Teen Parent Program's volunteers, Roberta Walker of Camden, Maine, also came into Adrienne and Del's lives.

Adrienne Desrochers, Del Randall and their son, Zachary
Adrienne Desrochers, Del Randall and their son, Zachary

"Things would be rougher without her," says Desrochers. "She has children and grandchildren, and she talks about how it was when her kids were growing up. It makes me hopeful that things in my life will get better."

Walker got involved with the Teen Parent Program because she was "fascinated by the potential to help young families get off to a good start."

"Adrienne knows she's important to me and that I'm someone she can count on," says Walker, who also serves on the Teen Parent governing board. "I offer words of encouragement and reinforce the positive."

The Teen Parent Program, begun in 1989 and supervised by Extension Educator Nadine Reimer, is designed to improve the lives of young, first-time parents and their children by providing education and mentoring. The program is based on the premise that parents are children's most influential teachers.

In 1994, there were 75 births to girls ages 17 and younger in Knox County, according to Maine's Bureau of Health. However, in 2000, there were 24 births to teens.

Today, more than 25 pregnant or parenting teens ages 15-22 are participating in the Teen Parent Program. They are assisted by certified parent educators in Extension and 20 trained volunteer mentors like Roberta Walker.

In 1997, the Teen Parent Program was selected as one of five national models by the USDA's Children, Youth and Families At-Risk Initiative, based in Washington, D.C. The Knox County initiative was cited for its community building and networking for teen parents.

The program has a governing board of 15 community members, including a pediatrician, nurse midwife, artist, registered nurses, teen mother and several trained volunteers.

"My focus is on the success of the babies and on the prevention of second pregnancies that can send the moms into poverty," Reimer says. "We are able to make real-life, human connections, offering the moms and dads opportunities to see a different life for themselves and their children."

by Margaret Nagle
April-May, 2002

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