Meadville Tribune

Local News

December 2, 2013

Bethesda offers Right Start for Young Mothers

MEADVILLE — Savanna Mathis never hesitated. Regardless of the question, the 17-year-old Mathis, eight months pregnant with her first daughter, was prepared to answer. Until ...

At the time, Mathis was a client at Bethesda Children’s Home in Meadville and had been a member of its Right Start for Young Mothers Program, which provides support, guidance, education and medical care to pregnant teens or teen mothers, for six months.

Asked where she might be without the program, Mathis paused. Moments later, Mathis responded, “I probably wouldn’t have my daughter. ... And I probably would be in worse placement.”

That was once a harsh reality, according to Bethesda Children’s Home Development Director David Johnson, who said before the Right Start for Young Mothers Program, adjudicated teen mothers or moms-to-be were immediately placed elsewhere and many of the children were put into foster care.

“We realized there was an up and coming need for a facility where adjudicated young mothers could live with their children and get the help they needed to be good, responsible parents,” he said.

The Right Start for Young Mothers Program opened its doors in January. The residential placement program has room for 12 clients (mothers and their children). The facility includes bedrooms divided for teens and their children and expectant mothers. There is a living room, nursery, bathroom with washer and dryer, and a full kitchen.

Childcare is provided to the teen while she attends classes. The teens are also provided with medical care, parenting classes at the New Life Unit at Meadville Medical Center and more.

“It gives girls who may not have any support coping with being a teenager, let alone a teen mom, support and guidance,” said Erin Faust, one of the employees in the Right Start for Young Mothers Program facility. “And it’s amazing to see the transformation.

“A lot of the girls before couldn’t cope. They would get upset and then not let it go. Now they just walk away and deal with it more maturely.”

It’s those kind of progress reports that makes all the sacrifice and hard work that went into starting the program at Bethesda Children’s Home worth the while.

“I remember when the first baby was born,” Chief Executive Officer Gene Wisinski said. “I was pretty grateful that we did that. That we have the ability to get to people and have an impact is remarkable. I just kept thinking, ‘Wow. This is almost magical.’”

A total of 16 teens have been in the program since its inception. Currently, there are 12 clients in the program — eight mothers and four children — and according to Kelly Kingston, supervisor of the Right Start for Young Mothers Program, there is a waiting list.

“It’s been a great success,” said Kingston, who said Bethesda also throws baby showers and birthday parties for the expectant mothers and the children. “We’ve had mothers reunited with their children. One mother hadn’t seen her baby in a year. She had visitation here and there. She now has full custody.

“It’s a chance for her to be a parent and his chance to be with his mother.”

Kingston said the normal stay is between six to nine months but that some of the teen moms may stay in the program for a full year.

Mathis wound up at Bethesda Children’s Home after violating her parole. At the time, she was three months pregnant and it was recommended she be placed at Bethesda, one of only a small handful of facilities in Pennsylvania with a residential area for teen moms.

Mathis made a couple trips to the hospital in early November because of contractions, but A’Myah, as of her due date Nov. 30, had not yet entered the world. When she does, Mathis feels she is prepared.

“I’ve learned a lot,” said Mathis. “The big thing I learned is ways not to parent and ways I need to change so that I never have to be in this situation again.”

Text Only
Local News