Group for young parents in Washington offers peer-to-peer support

Pregnant individuals and new parents in underserved areas face challenges including a lack of access to services, transportation, and educational and employment opportunities.

In Lake Stevens, Washington, Tina Mandella and Elizabeth Miller of Lake Stevens Community Resource Center noticed that a young parent reached out on a community forum asking for help connecting to resources. Tina and Elizabeth were able to meet the immediate needs of that parent, and it inspired them to think about ways to regularly support young parents in Lake Stevens, a fast-growing community with limited resources geared toward serving young parents whose incomes are below the federal poverty threshold.

Lake Stevens Community Resource Center, part of Volunteers of America Western Washington, teamed up with partners like Snohomish County Early Head Start, Lake Stevens Young Life and Community Health Plan of Washington to brainstorm how to better connect young parents with what they need to build strong, healthy foundations for their families. The group decided to form a support group for young parents, called Growing the Future of Today’s Families, facilitated by Tina and Elizabeth.

Recent funding from UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Washington made it possible for the group to expand its offerings and outreach. The group is now able to meet monthly, rather than quarterly, and the group’s age range has expanded to serve teens up to age 21. 

A safe place to ask for help and find resources

Young parents can experience challenges related to accessing educational and economic opportunities, which can contribute to an intergenerational cycle of poverty.1

 The support group aims to address some of these challenges for young parents in Lake Stevens by offering a consistent place to receive peer-to-peer support, work on parenting skills and build confidence.

The first hour of each meeting is used as a supportive social gathering with space for kids to play while their parents socialize with one another and with group organizers. Tina and Elizabeth collaborated with group members to develop a calendar of meeting topics the parents wanted to learn about. Topics for this year include sleep schedules, pregnancy resources, car seat safety, CPR certification class, and dealing with child tantrums. Meetings also include time to celebrate birthdays and cognitive development milestones.

Parents are encouraged to reach out at any time with questions or for help with immediate needs, like diapers. Facilitators help address social determinants of health, which influence whole-person health, by providing resources that can improve quality of life. Parents have asked about resources for kids with disabilities, how to obtain housing support from the state, and how to navigate childcare benefits for working parents.

Building connections and community

As the group grows, Tina and Elizabeth are working to make more connections with community organizations — like the local alternative high school and McKinney-Vento programs for students experiencing housing insecurity — whose programs may serve young pregnant individuals or parents. The expansion of the group and its increased frequency of meetings make it a unique resource for young parents whose needs may otherwise go unmet.

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