The Grant County Christian Service Council (CSC) and the Interlakes Community Action Partnership in Milbank are teaming up to form a Mentoring Moms program to assist young, often single, mothers. The program will match consenting young pregnant women and new parents with experienced volunteer mothers who will offer friendship and support, advocacy, resources, and education. CSC hopes to begin the program by June 1.
Mentoring Moms will encourage and assist young mothers in accessing health, financial, and educational services. The program also seeks to improve parenting skills, offer support in completing educational programs, improve self-worth, create friendships and provide emotional support, and prevent repeat pregnancies. “Ideally, we hope to start moms in the program as soon as they discover they are pregnant and work with them until the child is two years old,” stated Cheryl Sieverson, one of the creators of Mentoring Moms.
“Several young mothers from Grant County are already involved in a similar program in Watertown, so we feel it is beneficial to serve them locally and to reach out to other young moms in the county,” said Janet Loeschke, CSC member who was also instrumental in beginning the program. According to Sieverson, ICAP is already seeing interest from several families.
Loeschke and Sieverson, a retired nurse, took the program under their wings and are now making it fly. “I think someone needs to pinch me, I can’t believe this program is happening,” said Sieverson. Sieverson helped establish a similar program in Watertown several years ago and is now using that knowledge and experience in Grant County.
The Mentoring Moms program will also incorporate an incentive program called the Baby Pantry, similar to the local Food Pantry. Young moms enrolled in the Mentoring Moms program can accumulate points to earn baby products by living healthy lifestyles during and after their pregnancies. Mothers can earn points through a variety of activities such as attending prenatal doctor visits, staying in school and acquiring their degrees, completing job search tasks, attending weekly church services and activities, abstaining from drinking and smoking, using family planning services, and immunizing their infants. “A young mom could earn points for a package of diapers simply by going to church activities one week,” explained Loeschke. “She can earn baby products such as bottles and clothing and possibly even bigger items like a car seat or high chair.”
The mentoring program will be dependent on finding volunteers who are willing to become involved in the lives of young mothers. “Preferably, the mentors will be mothers themselves and have the time and compassion to work with young mothers,” stated Sieverson.
Mentors will meet with young moms a minimum of once or twice per month and must commit to the relationship for at least one year. Mentors must complete an application and interview process, pass a background check, and receive training on issues facing young mothers and families. Mentors will also be paired with a young mom or family with similar likes and dislikes, age preferences, backgrounds, and locations. “Finding mentors is going to be the most challenging part,” noted Loeschke. “But with our generous community, we feel confident volunteers will step forward to help these young moms succeed.”
To be eligible for the program, a woman must be pregnant or have a child under the age of five. Generally, anyone eligible for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program will be eligible for Mentoring Moms, but income guidelines will apply. “Young couples, not just single moms, can also apply,” noted Rise.
CSC will work with the ministerial association, social services, and other groups or agencies which service young moms in an effort to identify and enroll parents in the program,” said Loeschke. Anyone interested in mentoring or volunteering with the Baby Pantry, or any young mom who wishes to enroll in the program is encouraged to contact Heather Rise at the ICAP office, at 432-6571.
Pictured: back left, Cheryl Sieverson, Jan Loeschke front, Heather Rise