Young Parents Network was formed in 1985 with the goal of providing a support system to young families. For over 30 years, the local organization has grown and adapted to provide the services that young parents need to succeed. Their effort hinges on the support of countless community partners and volunteers.
Today, Young Parents Network provides resources to women and men age 13-27 years. Class content is educational in nature and can range from a how-to on parenting techniques, to how to maintain a car or plan for retirement. Their model involves weekly classes where young parents are grouped together – mothers, fathers, and more recently, a Latina-specific group. Childcare, a meal and transportation are offered.
Executive Director Brian Stutzman explains, “Most of these individuals come to us prenatally. We’ll have upwards of 250 individuals who come through our doors every year that are pregnant and many of those will stay with us through parenting.” He further explains that while Young Parents Network clients are often facing significant challenges, they come to the program voluntarily because they sincerely want to do better for themselves and for their children. They’re motivated to seek out resources.
“Most people who have a child know that overwhelming feeling that you have when you walk out of the hospital that nobody else is coming with you,” says Brian. “That you don’t have an owner’s manual, but that you’re responsible for this child. That’s why people come to us. They’re in a situation where they may not have a very good support system or they may want more information. Or they’re just looking to respond to some of that anxiety they’re feeling.”
After talking with clients, it’s clear that the benefit of Young Parents Network’s programming goes well beyond resources or education. The added, intangible benefit is the sense of community that Young Parents Network fosters among group participants and volunteers.
“Initially, I didn’t want to come,” recalls Megan, who has been participating in Young Parents Network for the past two years. “I thought it was going to be a situation where someone would lecture you. But it’s not like that, and I really enjoy meeting the other moms who are going through the same things. It’s a great place to get support.”
Over the years, Young Parents Network has benefitted from numerous grants from the Community Foundation. Most recently, the organization received a grant from a donor-advisor to fund its prenatal and parenting education groups.