Rose of Sharon offers teen mothers a home-away-from-home environment

By  Sara Loftson, The Catholic Register
  • April 22, 2007
Newmarket, Ont. - Inside the main gathering space of Rose of Sharon Services for Young Mothers hangs homemade colourful quilts, boxes of infant toys lay on the carpet, all by a well-used rocking chair. The all-female 15-person staff create a home-away-from-home atmosphere for hundreds of teen mothers and their pre- and post-natal children who use the centre’s services.
Nikita Vineham and her infant son Carter (photo by Sara Loftson)
Melanie Balaban comes to the centre with her three-month-old daughter Mikayla every week for the nutrition program.

“This is the time I get out and mingle and people understand me because they have babies of their own,” said Balaban, a 23-year-old professional children’s party clown.

Balaban found out she was pregnant after she and her boyfriend broke up. He has since married another woman and has only seen Mikayla three times. She said he wanted her to get rid of the baby, but her intuition told her otherwise.

“Every young mother who has a child has courage.... They took on the challenge of giving life to a child in very difficult circumstances,” said Rose of Sharon director Dr. Bruno Scorsone.

Scorsone said because many young mothers have little to no support from family and friends they come to the centre to learn what to expect during pregnancy and how to breast-feed, give baths and stimulate intelligence once the child is born.

Members of a prayer group at the Good Shepherd Sisters’ Farm at Regina Mundi started Rose of Sharon 21 years ago after noticing a lack of services for single mothers in York Region.

Currently, the centre offers three onsite counsellors, high school courses by correspondence, a daycare for children from birth to two-and-a-half years old and an alumnae drop-in for mothers to connect and have their children play together. Mothers can also access free food, diapers, formula, gently used clothing and other baby items. The centre co-ordinates community awareness presentations where moms volunteer to speak about the realities of teen pregnancy.

The agency receives funding from a number of sources, including ShareLife, the charitable fund-raising arm of the archdiocese of Toronto, the United Way, Health Canada and the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

Transportation is another issue. It’s difficult for mothers across the region to travel to Newmarket so Scorsone plans to expand to the southern part of York Region.

This would be a help for Nikita Vineham, 16, who lives at home with her parents in Keswick. Fortunately, she’s on good terms with her parents because the father of her child is long gone. He refused to believe the child was his.

Marly Lavigne finds herself in the opposite situation. She and her 10-month-old son Jason live with her son’s father and his parents. The 24-year-old boyfriend supports the family working at a vegetable processing plan cleaning machinery overnight.

Although Lavigne faced public stigma for getting pregnant at 15, and pressure from her parents to have an abortion, she doesn’t regret her choice to carry Jason to term.

“I’m not going to make the baby lose its life just because I’m an idiot,” she said.

Her goal is to finish high school. She takes correspondence courses at the centre while Jason plays in the daycare.

“For many of the teens that get pregnant and carry a child to birth it’s not just a mistake for some of them, but it’s a desire to love someone and be loved by someone,” said Scorsone.

He said there isn’t enough youth programming in parishes to keep youth from dropping out of church as teenagers.

“If we want to stop teen pregnancy we have to send viable alternatives to youth to feel respected, cared for, appreciated by society,” said Scorsone.

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