Partnership to support young mums achieve health, life goals

Partnership to support young mums

A new education, health and life-skills program is helping West Moreton teen parents realise their potential.

About 20 young women aged up to 24 years returned to the classroom last week to continue their studies in a new purpose-built space at Ipswich State High School.

The young women, who are either pregnant or parenting, are participants of the Young Families Connect program, the only one of its kind in the region. The program helps teen parents complete their schooling while caring for their child.

The Ipswich support centre is now the host site for a new partnership between West Moreton Health, Mission Australia CFC Inala-Ipswich and Brave Foundation to help young mothers access to health, wellbeing and parenting support through the Brave SEPT (Supporting Expecting and Parenting Teens) Program.

West Moreton Health’s Social Work Director Fiona Demnar said social worker Rebecca Hoare had taken on the role of Brave SEPT mentor as part of a two-year trial to help program participants achieve health and wellbeing goals and overcome social isolation by connecting them to parenting support. The support also helps them to achieve healthy lifestyles, relationships and educational or employment opportunities.

Ms Demnar said teen parents had been identified as being at higher risk of poor health outcomes without coordinated care.

“The mentoring program is helping bridge the gap between expecting and parenting teens and existing health services and aims to improve access to help pathways for both young women and their children,” she said.

“Some young women may not have previously accessed available health care because they haven’t disclosed their pregnancy, often because they feel stigmatised because of their age and pregnancy.

“Other social barriers, such as limited family or financial support and poor access to transport, can also prevent young parents from accessing the health services they need to support their health and wellbeing during pregnancy and parenthood.”

Ms Hoare said she attended antenatal appointments and other health checks alongside program participants.

“Not everyone feels at ease in a hospital environment,” Ms Hoare said.

“Having a familiar face at each of their appointments, and someone who can advocate on their behalf by making sure the care we deliver is appropriate to their needs, and that things are explained in a way they understand, is helping teen parents feel more relaxed and confident to access health care throughout their pregnancy and following the birth of their baby,” Ms Hoare said.

Ms Demnar said the partnership with Brave Foundation expanded on West Moreton Health’s existing support for young mums within the Young Families Connect program.

“The Brave mentoring role expands on the role played by our other health service providers, such as a child health nurse who provides routine health checks and supports the early development of their babies, and a Midwifery Nurse Navigator who supports pregnant women to gain the right care they need.”

About Brave Foundation

“The journey might be different now but the destination can stay the same.’’

They were the words of advice that Brave Foundation founder Bernadette Black received from her high school teacher after discovering she was pregnant at 16 years.

Ms Black, who was a 2019 Australian of the Year finalist, said those 13 words made all the difference.

The Tasmanian woman now runs the only dedicated national not-for-profit organisation in the country to support teenagers in pregnancy.

She was in Ipswich this week to meet with those running one of nine Brave SEPT (Supporting Expecting and Parenting Teens) mentoring programs in the country.

She said Ipswich was identified as having a higher incidence of teenage parents and Brave SEPT was helping young people to connect to existing support services.

“You have to build a village of support and acceptance for expecting and parenting teenagers,’’ Ms Black said. “If a young person is in a situation where they don’t have a positive voice around them then that one voice (of a mentor) can make all the difference.

“Imagine if my teacher didn’t say those words to me.’’

At 16, while waiting for an antenatal appointment, Ms Black wrote down three goals: be a good mum, finish her education and write a pamphlet to help others in a similar situation to her.

Having achieved her own aims, including penning the book Brave Little Bear, which was published in 2015, Ms Black has encouraged Brave SEPT program participants to set their own goals.

“The mentors, who are from community health, social work and education backgrounds, are helping teenagers to create a pathway plan, which could be about finishing their schooling, finding a job, or prioritising their health and wellbeing.”