Rose of Sharon helps young mothers continue their education while raising their children. Photo courtesy of Rose of Sharon

Young parents get second chance

  • May 10, 2013

TORONTO - St. Mary Euphrasia, the founder of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, once said: “Lift them up in their own eyes.”

Today, that is what the staff at Rose of Sharon — created with the support of the Good Shepherd sisters — seek to do daily for the young mothers they serve.

“It’s one thing for us to constantly tell them how much we love them and how much we value them,” said executive director Anna Pavan. “It’s another for them to believe that in themselves.”

One of the many Catholic Charities agencies for young parents, Rose of Sharon highlights the value of individual worth, inclusivity and belonging, said Pavan. The agency is dedicated to providing counselling, education and parenting resources for pre-natal and parenting young mothers and their families throughout York Region. When mothers leave the agency, Pavan often hears the same affectionate words: “It’s my family.”

“It’s a second family for some, it’s a primary family for others.”

When they first arrive at Rose of Sharon, young mothers typically feel ostracized and judged — which is often why they left their regular high school, said Pavan.

“But if they’re under the age of 21 and want to continue their high school education, they do that here while the child is being minded.”

Similar to Rose of Sharon, young families are served by Rose of Durham in Durham Region, Vita Centre in Peel Region and Rosalie Hall in Scarborough. Founded by the Misericordia Sisters at the request of former Toronto Archbishop Neil McNeil, Rosalie Hall provides direct assistance to young women and children through three levels of service, said executive director Alan Nickell.

Staff look at a family’s basic needs — housing, employment, food — along with the skills, development and resiliency of the family. They also ensure that parents are attuned to the needs of their children. This is accomplished through parenting groups, sessions on child communication and discipline and instruction on successful single parenting.

“We have quite a large child development centre so we can have the babies, toddlers and preschoolers on site with the parents,” said Nickell. “In order to have that flexibility and staffing, Catholic Charities allows us to have the young parent and child in programs together. And that’s where we most effectively work with their parenting skills and meeting their needs.”

An important objective shared by all the agencies dedicated to young parents is to build support communities where pregnant women can make a “choice for life,” even in difficult circumstances.

Catholic Charities also supports Birthright International, a worldwide organization founded in Toronto. It offers emotional and practical support to girls and women who are pregnant and require confidential help.

(Santilli is a freelance writer in Toronto.)

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