Tuesday, November 28, 2000

Teen moms find haven

.5 'Nice having someone to talk to who understands'

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        BURLINGTON — At their twice-a-month meetings, the young mothers talk about a range of topics — everything from treating earaches to the awkwardness of being mistaken for their daughter's sister.

        But mostly, members of Northern Kentucky's Teen Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) revel in the support and camaraderie they find in a group of their peers.

        “Being around people with the same differences, no one judges you,” said 18-year-old Jessica Faulkner of Erlanger, an aspiring paralegal who's the mother of Taylor, 3, and Trenton, 1.

        Sarah Schroer, mother to 3-year-old Madison, enjoys Teen MOPS because “you can call any of them anytime and they'll listen to you.”

Special empathy
               “Sometimes, it's just nice having someone to talk to who understands what you're going through,” Ms. Schroer said.

        With a maturity that belies her 18 years, the Burlington woman is studying to be a medical assistant or midwife, while working full time as a phlebotomist.

        As someone who was born to a teen-age mother and has two young children herself, Mary Mitchell feels a special empathy for teen moms.

        So last fall, the 33-year-old Union woman approached the First Church of Christ in Burlington about providing a meeting location for a Teen MOPS chapter.

Older moms mentor
               The chapter, part of MOPS International Inc., is the only Teen MOPS group in Kentucky, Southwestern Ohio or Southeastern Indiana.

        Through the faith-based, supportive, nonjudgmental environment of MOPS, participants are encouraged to stay in school, become better parents, develop leadership skills and choose healthy relationships.

        At the Burlington Teen MOPS program, older moms mentor their 10 teen-age counterparts, and provide child care during meetings, which typically include a guest speaker, meal, craft activity and lots of socializing.

        A couple of the teens in the group are married, but most are separated, divorced or have no contact with their child's father. Some still live with their parents, while others are on their own. Several are juggling school and parenting with one or more jobs.

No generation gap
               In keeping with the group's upbeat message, team leader Malania Copeland recently encouraged a couple of teens talking about unexpected pregnancies to describe their children as surprises, rather than mistakes or accidents.

        While Mrs. Copeland doesn't advocate teen motherhood, in her case, having a 17-year-old for a mother proved to be an unexpected blessing.

        “As adults, we see more eye to eye,” she said. “It's a far more open relationship than a lot of my friends have with their mothers. We don't have that generation gap.”

        Information: Call (859) 586-HOPE.


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