Photo by Bonnie Kittle on Unsplash

Rosalie Hall an oasis for young moms in isolation

By 
  • May 9, 2020

Being isolated and away from friends and extended family can take its toll on anyone, but imagine being 18, pregnant or recently given birth, or coping with mental health issues or other societal complications.

It’s what staff see each day at Rosalie Hall, which provides support to young, mostly teenaged mothers and their children. Counselling and therapy services are on tap as the young parents cope with the stresses of raising a child when they themselves are little more than a child. Now throw in COVID-19 and the restrictions that have isolated them even more.

“They’re missing their community,” said Jane Kenny, executive director at Rosalie Hall, which has been providing youth outreach in Scarborough and beyond for more than 100 years. “We’ve had no visitors since March 13 (when the pandemic lockdown started) so it’s awfully hard. Nobody’s saying, that’s it, I’m leaving, so that’s a good thing. They’ve co-operated with being sheltered in place.”

It’s amazing that this is the case, said Kenny. After all, these are girls for the most part who’ve had little stability in their lives. She gives a lot of credit to the staff who are looking after the 10 girls in residence, all between 15 and 21, and the nine babies on hand. Staff also help young moms care for their children outside Rosalie Hall’s Scarborough premises. This latter group presents more challenges for staff, said Kenny, and staff have been delivering food and other supplies needed to raise a newborn.

“Our young women in the community we’re finding are struggling a little more,” she said. “Many of them are socially isolated anyhow so don’t have the people necessarily to check in on them. Our staff have taken that on quite actively.”

It’s an extensive team, including mental health counsellors and teachers (two from the Toronto Catholic board, one from the public board) who are making sure the girls keep up with school work as best they can. The only thing missing in this lockdown is the child care centre, though “we’re really looking at an all-hands on approach to be able to make sure we’re adequately staffed in the residence,” said Kenny.

It’s much the same at Rose of Sharon in Sharon, Ont., north of Toronto, which since 1985 has provided support and educational services to prenatal and parenting young women under 25 in York Region. COVID-19 has brought a close to its regularly scheduled programs, but it continues to operate and is providing telephone counselling for the 300 young mothers and their families.

Both agencies are members of the ShareLife and Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of Toronto family. Catholic Charities executive director Michael Fullan can’t stress enough the importance of agencies like Rosalie Hall and Rose of Sharon, as well as Rose of Durham in Durham Region and Vita Centre in Peel Region which provide similar services.

“These organizations are critical during the pandemic,” said Fullan. “These young mothers and babies are more isolated at this time and have difficulty accessing food and essential baby items.”

Fullan gives an extra shout out to the staff helping the women.

“During this time we hear daily stories about heroes in our midst that sacrifice to keep us healthy and functioning. The staff of these agencies are also unsung heroes finding innovative ways to stay connected and support young mothers and newborns,” he said.

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