Feature
Teen mother: Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Hon. Olivia Grange (right), and Miss World 2019, Toni-Ann Singh, engage with a teen mother during a visit to the Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation (WCJF) New Kingston location in December.
Photo: Rudranath Fraser and Yhomo Hutchinson

Story Highlights

  • For more than 40 years, the Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation (WCJF) has been a ray of hope for teen mothers across the length and breadth of Jamaica.
  • Through the Programme for Adolescent Mothers, offered at the WCJF’s main office in St. Andrew, and through outreach stations across the island, the young women benefit from academic instruction in a number of subject areas in order to reintegrate them into the formal education system.
  • They are also taught childcare and parenting skills to equip them for motherhood. They learn how to breastfeed, bathe, dress and properly hold the baby during the various developmental stages.

For more than 40 years, the Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation (WCJF) has been a ray of hope for teen mothers across the length and breadth of Jamaica.

Through the Programme for Adolescent Mothers, offered at the WCJF’s main office in St. Andrew, and through outreach stations across the island, the young women benefit from academic instruction in a number of subject areas in order to reintegrate them into the formal education system.

They are also taught childcare and parenting skills to equip them for motherhood. They learn how to breastfeed, bathe, dress and properly hold the baby during the various developmental stages.

“We have a curriculum, which we call Transformational Parenting, which we use to develop the parenting skills of the adolescent mother by educating them about the various things they would face and they are facing,” Acting Centre Manager for the Mandeville facility, Dahlia Johnson, tells JIS News.

“This was initiated because we want the adolescent mothers to raise children that are productive and well-rounded,” she adds.

The curriculum ensures that the adolescent mother has the psychosocial support needed to make the transition into young adulthood and motherhood while remaining a student.

Director of Field Operations at the WCJF, Beverley Martin-Berry, says the Programme for Adolescent Mothers seeks to not only impact the teen but the entire family.

Director of Field Operations at the Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation, Beverley Martin Berry, addressing a Jamaica Information Service (JIS) Think Tank.

 

“We are looking at a generational impact. We are looking at the adolescent mother, the parent of the adolescent mother, and the child of the adolescent mother. We have been given the opportunity to impact three generations as it relates to parenting and educating a nation,” she shares.

Mrs. Martin-Berry says the WCJF also works with the parents or guardians of the adolescent mother, in order to ensure that she receives full support.

Parents are engaged in training and counselling sessions addressing issues they may have and teaching them various parenting techniques.

The objective is to ensure that the home environment is free from abuse, whether physical, emotional or verbal, so as to prevent the teen mother from seeking refuge in situations where they become pregnant again.

“It is what we consider total support of the adolescent mother. Through the parenting initiative, we seek to work with the family to ensure that they too are equipped with the necessary coping skills, that they know how to deal with this new development of a teenage mother in the household and how best they can provide support while improving on their own parenting skills,” Mrs. Martin-Berry says.

The Mandeville f recently hosted a parenting forum with the over 32 participants who were guided through discussions on parenting styles and coping strategies by representatives from the Behavioural Science Department at the Northern Caribbean University (NCU).

The Acting Centre Manager says the forum was well received by the adolescent mothers and their parents.

“They were all appreciative of it. The parents were able to share their issues and be guided. The students were very expressive of what they think parenting is and how it should be. The students appreciated it because their voices were heard while their parents were there,” she says.

Among the participants at the parenting forum were 15-year-old Moya Brooks and her mother, Marcia Cole.

“They told me that if I have any problems I can talk about it, because I am not alone and I mustn’t be afraid to talk about it,” Ms. Cole shares with JIS News.

“I must tell my daughter that I love her and the baby. They told me to not hit my daughter or handle her a certain way, and I am not to tell her any bad words or talk to her rough,” she adds.

Of all the benefits gained from attending the Mandeville facility, Ms. Cole says she is most appreciative of the improvement in her daughter’s grades.

Moya went from struggling in school to placing first in her class in the 2018/2019 academic year.

For her part, Moya tells JIS News that “I learned that in spite of what happens, I should not take my mother for granted and to try not to let my mother feel down. Since the training, I have noticed changes for the better”.

Parents who accompany their daughters to the Mandeville facility’s Student Empowerment Days are also assisted in obtaining vital documents such as forms of identification and taxpayer registration numbers.

Support is also provided for the development of the babies through the Centre’s day care.

“We have a day care for the adolescent mother, which is free of cost, so all of them are welcome to take their child to the nursery,” Ms. Johnson tells JIS News.

“We have trained caregivers, who know how to deal with the developmental stages of the baby and the development of motor skills and other areas. We also have activity days where girls are encouraged to interact with their baby, and that helps to bond the mother and the child,” she adds.

Meanwhile, many teachers and counsellors who serve the WCJF are offspring of adolescent mothers, who benefited from the services of the Centre over its four decades of operation.

One such person is the Acting Centre Manager for the Montego Bay facility, Judyann Scott, who tells JIS News that her experience makes her better able to relate to the adolescent mothers.

“I am able to help them develop resilience and coping skills to tackle whatever hurdles come their way. Additionally, the training of the parents is good because the mothers can become positive change agents, not just in the home but also in the community and right across Jamaica.”

Ms. Scott says that the Centre influenced her upbringing in a positive way.

“My mother went through similar issues of being discriminated against by the public. The Women’s Centre helped in that she was given a second chance and equipped with the necessary skills to become a good parent.

“With those skills, my mother was able to raise me in the right way. Each birthday, especially in my teenage years, she would have sex education talks with me and let me know the consequences of having sex early,” Ms. Scott notes.

The WCJF has helped more than 46,000 adolescent mothers and impacted the lives of countless more through its seven main facilities and 11 outreach stations.

The Foundation is committed to promoting new approaches to problems associated with teenage pregnancy, especially in the area of interrupted education.