By Magen McCrarey
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Preventing violence in Laurel County for children four and under also means educating new parents on childhood dangers and healthy choices, according to the Violence Prevention Coalition of Laurel County.
The coalition met this month to discuss their task force’s implementation of parenting classes this year. June Rawlings, director of Healthy Community Outreach at Saint Joseph London, said their action plan has begun and is beginning to see the coalition’s ideas take form.
“It seemed like everything has just come together,” Rawlings said. “When there’s a purpose and a vision, it will all come together and the right people will be there.”
Local organizations and businesses who have supported the coalition’s cause include Laurel County Life Center, Parkway Pediatrics, Saint Joseph London Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, Saint Joseph London, North Laurel High and South Laurel High Family Resource and Youth Services Centers, Saint William Catholic Church and the Cumberland Regional Prevention Center. Rev. Patrick Stewart at Saint William Church has collaborated with Rawlings and Family educators within the Laurel County Schools to provide a support group for teen parents.
According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, uncertainty overwhelms teen parents because of their new, unclear role as a parent. Many face socioeconomic pressures as it becomes more of a reality and it’s common for teens to drop out of school to have their babies and never return. Babies born to teenagers are at risk for neglect and abuse because of a lack of parenting education.
Through the new support group at Saint William and the coalition, Rawlings is hopeful the support will alleviate the pressures and fears of parenthood and provide a sense of confidence to the new mothers and fathers.
Family Educator Annie Hurley at South Laurel High School said there are currently 14 teen parents at the school. Two have dropped out this year. At North Laurel High School, there are approximately 21 teen parents, and several have dropped out this semester already, not including the pregnant teens at the middle school level. The high schools actively provide services and counseling to the teen parents on a daily basis and offer an educational class once a month.
“In the last three years, the fathers in the building have begun to participate,” Woodyard said.
Family Educator Vicki Woodyard at North Laurel High stated the rate of pregnant teens may have decreased from the 36 mothers at the school five years ago, but it is becoming a norm to see pregnant teens.
“It’s not a big deal to the student body like we would have thought,” Woodyard said.
The biggest issue teen parent educators are facing is attendance. Many teen parents do not have access to transportation to receive the education they need, Rawlings said.
Classes for teen parents will continue this month, while parenting classes provided by London Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine will continue throughout the new year. The coalition is open to more collaboration with community organization to further their cause. A countywide parent support group is in the works to be implemented at a later date.
To contact the Violence Prevention Coalition, call June Rawlings at 606-330-7387 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
UPCOMING CLASSES/GROUP MEETINGS:
• Thursday, Nov. 15- Free Parenting Classes for parents and grandparents hosted by Saint Joseph London Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine starting at 4 p.m. for children ages two to three years old. Food and drinks will be provided. (2013 class dates include Jan. 17 for parents of ages three to five, Feb. 21 for parents of ages six to eight, March 15 for parents of ages seven to 10, and April 18 for parents of ages 11 to 18.)
• Saturday, Nov. 17- Free Teen Parent Support Group of teen parents at North Laurel and South Laurel High schools from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at Saint William Catholic Church. Food and drinks will be provided.