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Q: How can my maternity group home celebrate Mother’s Day without implicitly “celebrating” teen pregnancy?
A: This typically uncomplicated holiday, to be observed on May 8 this year, can be controversial in maternity group homes, according to Nikisha Johnson, program director for Mercy Residential Services in Rochester, NY. Johnson disagrees with critics who assume that such celebrations encourage teen pregnancy, and her organization uses the day to to recognize their young women's accomplishments and talk about motherhood in a positive way.
Johnson explains that many of the young women in her program come from troubled families, and likely have not been celebrated as individuals. So a positive Mother’s Day event can help them see themselves in a more encouraging light than they’re used to.
Meghan Huebner, director of residential services for The Alternative House in Northern Virginia, takes the same approach to Mother’s Day. Alternative House holds their annual celebration on the Monday after the holiday, allowing each young mom to make her own plans with family or friends if she's able.
Both programs rely on donors for their events. This year, for instance, Alternative House received a donation of beauty products from a local salon, so they’re giving the youth a “spa day” at one of their centers. Mercy Residential will follow the pattern they’ve set in past years and invite representatives from local women-led businesses and mother’s groups to come to the celebration to talk about femininity and motherhood.
“We make it about their self-image rather than ‘You are a person with a baby,’" Huebner says. "When they go to parenting groups, look for housing or go to school, it’s drilled into their heads that they’re young mothers. We want to give them a break from that.”