I am LaTerrica, a YOUNG MOM, and this is my story.
LaTerrica, 22, lives in Rockingham County, NC with her three children.
As told to Jasmine Getrouw-Moore, Young Families Connect Media Outreach Coordinator
I have lived in Rockingham County, NC for three years, since about late 2014. Before living in Rockingham County, I lived in Alabama where my mother’s family lives. I spent much of my teenage years in the foster care system because of some family issues that were going on. While in foster care, I learned that using available programs and services offered by the state and local government provided resources to improve life situations. For example, while in the foster care system, I was able to attend workshops and conferences, which taught me how to become independent, how to apply for programs and which social programs would best help me to meet my goals. One goal I had since living in Alabama was to become a Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA). I started taking CNA classes after I emancipated from foster care, however, I soon stopped taking class when a number of different life events happened. After becoming emancipated, I lived with my mother while taking classes at my local community college and working. However, my mom’s roof collapsed at her home and the living conditions made it difficult for me to live at her home while maintaining my school and work schedule. I was also relying on a friend (who was like a sister to me) for transportation. I found myself couch-surfing at friends’ houses but never telling them I didn’t have a place to stay. My transportation was not always reliable because my friend and I had such different schedules. I was unable to get to work nor maintain my school schedule. I started thinking about making a change.
From Alabama to North Carolina
Between my living conditions, unreliable transportation and the death of a very close friend, my goals were put on the back-burner. I was forced to pause all I had worked to achieve. I knew this was a time for a change. The big change came in July 2014, when I found out that I was pregnant with my first child. During one of my conversations with my father, who is from Rockingham County, I shared all of what was going on in my life. He suggested that I should relocate to Rockingham County and I did after I gave birth. I moved in with my dad and my new baby. This was a totally different environment for me, a new community. In fact, I only really talked to my dad and some people around my neighborhood including my boyfriend. I started feeling complacent, but relied on the skills I learned while in foster care- to check out community resources.
When I moved to Rockingham County, I applied for Medicaid and the Work First program, which helps to put applicants in a job training program and apply for jobs. I decided to go back to the Certified Nursing Assistant program and finished this program successfully. I actually got my first job (after finishing this program) in February 2016! This was so exciting to me. My son was about 18 months old when I was directed to the Rockingham Partnership for Children where I applied for childcare. This is where I met Dawn (former coordinator of YFC Rockingham County) who talked to me about the benefits of the Young Families Connect program. My main reason for wanting to enroll in the program was the need to build my community here in Rockingham County.
Young Families Connected
When I moved to Rockingham County, I applied for Medicaid and the Work First program, which helps to put applicants in a job training program and apply for jobs. I decided to go back to the Certified Nursing Assistant program and finished this program successfully. I actually got my first job (after finishing this program) in February 2016! This was so exciting to me. My son was about 18 months old when I was directed to the Rockingham Partnership for Children where I applied for childcare. This is where I met Dawn (former coordinator of YFC Rockingham County) who talked to me about the benefits of the Young Families Connect program. My main reason for wanting to enroll in the program was because I needed to build my community here in Rockingham County. I later discovered I was pregnant with twins. YFC was very helpful for me during this time.
Since starting Young Families Connect, I have had my twins who are six months old (at time of interview). I have moved into my own apartment with my three children and boyfriend and I am working as a Certified Nurse Assistant. I have been able to grow my community from just my father, boyfriend and children to a wider group of people like other young families I have connected with in Rockingham County. In Young Families Connect, I have learned new skills like positive, effective approached for parenting toddlers; cooking healthy meals for my family; ways to be physically active with my family and also different things to do around Rockingham County and in Greensboro. Young Families Connect has helped me to become a part of this community.
I am Brittany, a YOUNG MOM, and this is my story.
Brittany, 26, lives in Wayne County, NC with her two children.
As told to Jasmine Getrouw-Moore, Young Families Connect Media Outreach Coordinator (June 2017).
*Name Changed for confidentiality
Meet Brittany, a young mom from Wayne County, NC. Brittany shares her journey as a preacher’s kid, deciding to get distance herself from unhealthy relationships, and Young Families Connect.
I am a preacher’s kid. I grew up participating in church activities, and serving as a leader at my church. My community was church. I wasn’t quite exposed to what was going on outside of my church. My father wanted to make sure that I was sheltered from bad influences. I was so shielded that by the time I turned eighteen years old, I started to explore my independence and truly started to rebel from my parents. This was period in my life that lasted a few years. During this time where I first started to rebel, I stopped going to school regularly during my senior year of high school. I got some tattoos, started to hang out and party with other people so much that by the time the second quarter of my senior year was coming to an end, I realized that I was in danger of not graduating. I was scared! This was a wake-up call that I had to get myself together, and I did! Instead of finishing school in Wayne County, where I would have had to make up classes, pretty much stay back, and repeat the 12th grade, I called my aunt in Washington, D.C. where I finished the 12th grade (during the same school year) with honors.
Discovering Myself, New Relationships
I returned to North Carolina before moving to Georgia for college. I was unhappy there and decided to return back to North Carolina. During this time, I continued to hang out with my friends, party and have fun. I wasn’t living with my parents at this time because they wouldn’t have allowed me to live my life the way I wanted to live- hanging out with friends, partying and having a fun. I lived with my friend. I was trying to move on from one roller coaster ride of an unhealthy relationship, and I reconnected with someone I knew, Tim*. Tim and I started to seriously date in summer 2011. And I would soon find out that this relationship was yet another roller coaster ride. This was an unhealthy, toxic relationship.
When I look back, I realize that Tim gave me some comfort during a time when I was getting over another relationship. At that time, I was still participating on the party scene, not taking care of my body by consuming alcohol and prescription medicine which made my birth control ineffective. As a result, I became pregnant with our first child, my daughter, in November 2011. When I found out I was pregnant, I was scared. I was unmarried and concerned about what my family would think. I was concerned about how the church community would respond and how my friends would respond. I was also afraid to talk to my dad about things that were going with me like my feelings about being a single mother and the current state of my relationship. I moved in with Tim at his mother’s house. When I moved in, he moved out. We had a toxic relationship: he cheated, even had another child with another person. We argued and even fought but I didn’t want to break up the family structure.
Moving On and Ahead
I became pregnant again with my second child which is when I discovered Young Families Connect, after meeting Mrs. Donna. After I had my second child, I realized that my relationship with Tim wasn’t healthy. I was holding on to Tim out of fear of losing my family structure but not realizing that the family structure wasn’t solid if it was toxic. Through the support and guidance of the Young Families Connect team in Wayne County, I have been able to leave Tim and focus on my needs. Mrs. Donna helped me to focus on a career path. With the support of the Young Families Connect community and especially Mrs. Donna, I have been able to live a healthier happier life. I have focused on my goals, became a Certified Nurse Assistant and used the skills from this program to co-parent my children with Tim. I know I do not have to be in a relationship with him to be give my children the support they need. Moving on and ahead, I am focused on having a healthy, happy family starting with a healthy me.
I am Brenisha, a YOUNG MOM, and this is my story.
Brenisha, 23, lives in Rockingham County, NC with her husband, daughter (6 years old) and son (10 month old).
As told to Jasmine Getrouw-Moore, Young Families Connect Media Outreach Coordinator (June 2017).
New County, New Community
I relocated to Rockingham County about 2 years ago. One day, last year, I was at an appointment at the Social Services Department where I saw information about the Young Families Connect program, a program for young people who are pregnant and or parenting. At the time, I was in my first trimester with my son. I thought it would be smart for me to contact the program for more social support with my family since I was new to the area. I made my first contact by going onto the website and emailing Dawn (former coordinator). She emailed me back, scheduled an enrollment appointment at the Young Families Connect (Rockingham County) office and I have been a part of the program ever since May 2016! When I first came into YFC, I wanted to focus on how I could manage becoming a mom of two. I wanted to reduce the feelings of panic I had when I thought about having another baby. My daughter was my whole world – I had to get used to extending that feeling to another child. I also focused on healthier nutrition for myself and my family and drinking more water. These goals became very helpful for me during my pregnancy. The support from the program has been wonderful!
Managing Gestational Diabetes
After I had been in the program for two months, at 32 weeks pregnant, my doctor diagnosed me with gestational diabetes. I did not have that condition when I was pregnant with my daughter. Gestational diabetes happens when a pregnant person’s body is producing too much insulin which can be unhealthy for the body. This condition goes away when the baby is born. When a person has gestational diabetes, they have a strict diet, helpful for managing insulin. The diet consists of low carbohydrates and healthy vegetables. I felt like I was always hungry, but I didn’t want to have a sick baby. My doctor sent me to a diabetes education class where I learned about how to manage my diabetes by counting my carbs and eating a healthy diet. There, I learned what I should do to support my gestational diabetes, but YFC supported me by showing me how to make healthy meals for myself and my family. I came to learn how supportive my new YFC family was during this time when I shared this news with Dawn, Daphne and the other young families who participated in the program with me. When I was scared or stressed out, I was able to lean into this group. If I had a concern about something related to my fears with gestational diabetes or anything, they would help me or find the answer if they weren’t sure of the answer. During my pregnancy, I often walked with other YFC moms, and we cooked nutritious meals during in our healthy cooking classes. I started new goals for myself, like drinking more water and recognizing what types of food I was putting in my body and how it affected myself and growing son.
Leaning into a Support Group
Even though I felt better about managing my gestational diabetes with helpful tips from the diabetes education class and group classes with Young Families Connect, I was still scared, sad about this diagnosis. I went to the doctor every week during my pregnancy because of my diagnosis where I had to take a non-stress test. It seemed like I always got new, disappointing information. I always felt tired, sticky from sweating and afraid that I may die because of the symptoms I was experiencing. I was also disappointed because I learned from my prenatal visits that I was unable to have the labor and delivery experience I planned. With these never-ending fears, I was able to lean into the community of support with Young Families Connect. Another YFC mom shared that she experienced gestational diabetes. Her advice really helped me know what to expect from this experience which helped ease my fears. Other peers helped me with my disappointment from my birth plan change. They gave me helpful advice, encouragement, helped me to look on the bright side, focusing on the health of my baby. My YFC community also helped siblings like my daughter, an only child at the time, learn how to become a big sibling to newborn babies. YFC encouraged my husband to attend classes but due to some schedule conflicts, he was unable to attend; through this, my new community of support was there for me. They continue to encourage the whole family to attend meetings and events.
Focusing on a Healthy Family, Healthy Baby
Through my pregnancy, I tried to make sure my daughter was okay- that she was comfortable, not letting my worries upset her. I tried my best to meet her needs while coping with changes I was going through from pregnancy and even after I gave birth. I knew that my birth plan wasn’t going to go as planned. I was induced at 39 weeks. I made plans for family to be in town who would care for my new baby while I was healing from labor and delivery. My son had other plans; he was born two weeks later! He was very large which is normal for babies born to gestational diabetes persons. This experience was disappointing because I didn’t have anyone there to help as I planned and the birth itself was very painful. I tore badly and needed a lot of stitches. I was unable to walk. My doctor put me on bed rest for a few weeks and when I was able, I went to a YFC event. While at the event, I shared with my YFC case manager what I was feeling, that I wasn’t feeling like myself. My case manager talked to me about postpartum depression symptoms and recommended I see my doctor for a follow-up. My son’s pediatrician also asked me about these symptoms. This is a routine part of the postpartum visit because some new parents don’t go back for their visit and end up not getting a proper diagnosis. I was officially diagnosed at this time but didn’t have to take medicine for this. I recognized my symptoms. I was sad out of the blue, crying. MY YFC case manager and my doctor helped to manage my postpartum depression by leaning into my YFC peers and case manager. I shared what I felt with them. I also stayed active in YFC sessions like cooking classes and parenting sessions. With these activities and group support from Young Families Connect, I have been able to focus on all of the positives in my new life with my family. Young Families Connect has taught me that I have to take care of myself before I take care of anyone else. This is what my focus is now- a healthy family starting with a healthy me.
I am Britney, a Young Mom, and this is my story.
Britney, 22, lives in Robeson County with her husband and 18 month old son.
As told to Jasmine Getrouw-Moore, Media Outreach Coordinator for Young Families Connect
Britney shares how she has balanced nursing school, family and the Young Families Connect program. We will learn how Britney used time management skills and leaned into her support system while balancing nursing school, being a full–time wife and mother and participating in the Young Families Connect Program.
Marriage, School, Work…Surprise!
I grew up with a teen mother who had me at the age of sixteen, living in a community with a high crime rate, drug abuse (drug addicts and drug dealers). Many people from my background also become teen mothers, living off of welfare but instead, I chose not to become a statistic. I chose to create a life I wanted. I met my husband when I was fourteen years old, he was sixteen years old. We’ve been inseparable since then. After I graduated from high school, we moved in together with plans to get married. Things began to move pretty quickly. At this time, he was pursuing his career in law enforcement and I was pursuing my dream of becoming a nurse. We got married in our home and told our families about our marriage the next day. They had mixed emotions- hurt because we had not involved them in our plans but also happy for us because we had been together so long since our high school years. Each of our families were very comfortable with our relationship with one another. At the time, I was a 19 year old full-time student at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke (UNCP), working two full time jobs. One job was selling insurance and the other was tutoring students on campus at UNCP. At this time, I completed all of the classes needed to apply to the nursing program. I applied and found out I was accepted; then I found out I was pregnant! All of this happened back to back after I got married.
When I first found out I was pregnant, I was an emotional wreck! I planned on being pregnant with my first child when I was at least 30 years old. This pregnancy was surprising. I had to reconsider my next steps with school, but I ultimately decided that I would continue with Nursing School. Once my husband and I shared the news with our family, I shared my plans to continue with my academic program and our family said they would help me the best way they could. With their support, I figured I would just go with the flow and do what I could to accomplish my dream of becoming a nurse.
Nursing School: A Humbling Experience
I began the Nursing program in summer 2015, working at rest homes and caring for elderly patients. The experience was somewhat overwhelming, but it helped to prepare me for remainder of the program. I was five months pregnant at in the fall of 2015. This program was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. This was the hardest experience I have had while in school. When my class started fall 2015, the teachers gave all of us (students) a syllabus which is like an agenda for the semester that includes a list of course work and due dates. The syllabus also showed show teachers determine success for students. This agenda is meant to help us know what to expect from the program. This was overwhelming to my classmates and me; we were wondering how we would get all of this stuff done in a such a short time period.
Nursing School was a whole different world than I was used to. The first week of fall 2015, I remember thinking to myself “What did I get myself into?!” I noticed that I had to change my commitments. I was unable to manage studying for these intense courses and working. I decided to quit my two jobs and totally focus on my success in this program, especially because I had not developed a plan B. Nursing was my goal and I had to give it my best shot. During this time, fall 2015, I had five classes, two of which were clinical courses. This was tough! During this time, teachers reminded us (myself and other students) that spring semester is when we would start getting “weeded out” of the program. I had to use new methods for studying and realized that I had to sacrifice family time so that I could stay on top of my school work. I managed to continue my prenatal visits and managed a healthy pregnancy while managing a busy school life. I believe, however, that if I had my son during the first six months of school, I would have had a much harder experience. I passed fall 2015 by the skin of my teeth, proving by action that I would be able to do the work while pregnant and soon parenting!
I had my son in the spring of 2016. In fact, I gave birth to him on a Thursday and went back to school on a Tuesday! I had to fight tooth and nail to return to the classroom because I wanted to make sure I wasn’t behind. My advisor, a Nurse Practitioner, understood how taking off of school for a long period of time while in the nursing program would really put me behind. She took my vital signs, ensured I was in a healthy condition to return to school and allowed me to return.
Being a full-time mommy, breastfeeding and focusing on school 100% has been a humbling experience for me and my husband. I spent eight hours a day at school. My grandmother kept my son while my husband worked and I was at school. I used ten minute classroom breaks and lunch breaks to pump breastmilk for my son. I made sure to breastfeed my son as soon as I got home to make sure I was releasing my breastmilk and giving him what he needed.
I noticed that when I got home, I wanted to spend time with my newborn baby who I had been away from for eight hours a day. I began to spend more time with him instead of studying. This caught up with me because I bombed the first exam I had during the spring 2016 semester. That was the lowest grade I had ever made in college. Ever. At that point, I thought something’s got to give. I needed to juggle my responsibilities and multitask. I wanted to make sure that I was clear about my goal- to get through Nursing School, for my baby, for our future, but also make sure to not put my son on the back-burner. I began to study while I pumped, studied while I breastfed him and even studied out loud speaking in baby talk while I spending time with him. Once I figured out the time management and multitasking, I had a good spring semester.
Good News, Bad Storm
My husband had been working at a local sheriff’s department and moved to a local police department. During this time with a new baby, and in between jobs, we started to feel some of the financial burdens of having one income. We had living off of our savings account, and received some support from local churches and community members. One day at church, a member gave me the number for Mrs. Virginia (Young Families Connect Coordinator in Robeson County). I immediately started the program and realized how helpful it was for my family. Mrs. Virginia helped connect me to programs in Robeson County like one that gave short-term stipends to transitional workers. This was especially helpful due to our financial hardships. I really enjoyed the classes I have been a part of with Young Families Connect. I learned how to find some school-family balance; I learned how to show appreciation to my spouse and not to feel guilty for accomplishing my goals while being a full-time mother and student. I also polished my skills on maintaining healthy relationships, positive parenting skills and healthy nutrition for my family. These skills proved helpful for my next and last year of nursing school.
The fall semester 2016 was by far the easiest semester of this program. I took mental health, a community course, and research. At this time, Hurricane Matthew happened. My husband, a new local police officer and emergency responder, often on duty, responding to the community’s needs after the storm. I was often at home alone with an infant. No water, no power. We were out of school for a week but as soon as we came back, we had a test all as if nothing happened. We were able to apply the damaging effects of Hurricane Matthew in our Community class. Our program donated canned goods and clothing. We were able to see how churches in the community, our school, the nursing program and us as students were able to give back to victims of Hurricane Katrina in Lumberton. This wasn’t clinical time, it was our volunteer time. This experience helped me to grow as a nurse, to be selfless and give back to the community I live in and serve.
Weathering the Storm
My last semester in school, spring 2017, was very, very difficult! I would say my most difficult of my whole experience in the nursing program due to the time commitments I had with my courses, required paperwork and personal changes I experienced with my household. I had classes that required me to complete an internship which is like being a full-time nurse. On top of that, my semester included doing some resume building, a job search and taking a course on nurse management and leadership. I did very well in my classes but this was extremely hard with so many papers. I mean papers GALORE! My internship was on the Intensive Care Unit of our local hospital. This experience allowed me to apply my classroom experience to a real-life clinical setting. I enjoyed this experience so much because I had to think on my toes instead of asking a teacher for help. When I had questions, I was able to learn from my team members at my internship. I was even hired on that floor, with that team!
My commitment to school and my husband’s focus on his career, our new roles as parents began to put a strain on our marriage. My husband told me that he wanted to separate. It is not fun to have someone you care about walk away from you. I asked him to reconsider, to go to counseling but at that time there was no fixing the matter. I asked church members to pray for us and then reset my priorities on the two areas I was able to work on: motherhood and my last two months of school. I finished school successfully. My husband and I talked about what this was all for- making a better life for ourselves, for our son. I reminded him that I was present for him during his Officer Training program, 100%. After some talking my husband realized what he had, that the decision to separate was a mistake. We are now weathering the storm of that decision. We are making our back to one another, rebuilding the trust that had been lost in our relationship. I now know that I can pretty much do anything I set my mind to. Managing responsibilities as a wife, mother and student has been difficult but possible with focus on my goals and support from my family and community, including Young Families Connect. It didn’t hit me that I was graduating until I walked across the stage. I have a job in my field and I hope to pass the NC nursing exam. I believe I am living proof that if you put your mind to something and work hard, you can become a success!
I am Eric, a YOUNG DAD, this is my story.
Eric, 25, lives in Robeson County, NC with his partner Gabrielle and their sons Braylen (6 years old) and Cameron (8 years old)
As told to Jasmine Getrouw-Moore, Young Families Connect Media Outreach Coordinator (January 2017).
Eric is from Prospect, North Carolina, a self proclaimed “country boy” who has had lifelong aspirations to be a fireman. Eric is currently, living out his dreams serving as a volunteer fireman and exercising his carpentry skills when and where he can! Currently, Eric is preparing to graduate from barber school. Eric says that “Young Families Connect has helped me to open more, talk more, be less shy and the program has helped me financially. It has been a long-term support for myself and my family.”
Meeting Gabrielle: Friend and Partner
Gabrielle and I met online and after some time of chatting online, we decided to go on a date. We started to get serious about three or four months into the relationship. Gabrielle had her own place while I was still with my parents, just finishing high school. I eventually moved in with her after our relationship became more and more serious. We have grown to know one another’s likes and dislikes.
I grew up as an only child, so having this friendship with her has really been important to me. She and I have relied on each other quite a bit, from the loss of loved ones to surviving bad work days. We have truly been partners through sickness and in health, offering mutual comfort during our bad days and good days. I feel rest assured that I can talk to her about anything.
When Gabrielle found out she was pregnant, she was excited and nervous. I was nervous until she gave birth to our eldest son, Cameron. I was working at a local plant doing construction like I had been since high school. It was hard at first. I never thought I would have a kid this young, but I knew I had to tighten up. As a new, teen parent, I knew that I couldn’t do some of the things that my peers were doing. I was responsible for another person, my son, Cameron. Becoming a father taught me how to grow up and be a man.
An Unlikely Referral
I began attending the night program for barber school in January 2015. During registration, the manager at the time asked me a few questions about my life, my family and my goals with barber school. I shared that I needed financial assistance and understood that I could not get financial aid for barber school. He then shared the benefit of local programs that could help me with the cost of attending school. One of the programs mentioned that stuck out to me the most was the Young Families Connect program because (according to him) it would truly help me financially with school and childcare. He shared Mrs. Virginia’s number (the Young Family’s Connect Coordinator) with me and I called her, made an appointment to come by the office and signed up. I started participating in all of the classes for Young Families Connect; attending monthly appointments with her. I am happy that the barber school manager helped me out by sharing this program, giving me an unlikely referral. Gabrielle has also benefited from the Young Families Connect program. She has finished all of the required classes in areas such as parenting and other meetings that participants attend. She too has attended school thanks to the help of this program (although she has her work schedule has recently prevented her from attending). I really feel like Young Families Connect has helped us to meet our goals and help us to see our lives come together.
Young Families Connect and Beyond
The Young Families Connect program has helped me grow in so many ways. I feel that the program has helped me feel more comfortable and confident with talking to people more confidently. I have also learned how to live a healthier lifestyle as an example to my boys. My healthier lifestyle includes modeling healthy relationships and healthy nutrition.
In the Young Families Connect program, I was able to be apart of the parenting series with other parents. I got a chance to see how other parents act with their kids. This group series has helped me think about how I act with my boys. I have finished the parenting series understanding that whooping my kids (like I used to when they were acting up) is not how I want to discipline them. From this series, I learned that kids think that whoopings are scary. Kids do not behave well because of the whooping but out of fear. I don’t want my kids to feel like I am being mean to them by whooping them. I also don’t want to whoop the kids and then they treat other people in a mean way because of how I discipline them at home. Those two boys- they are my heart. Now, I ask questions to understand how they are feeling. Asking questions also helps them to understand their own feelings. Now, they are listening better and I am not having to constantly talk to them to correct their behavior. It’s not always easy but parenting is a growing process. I am learning something new all the time!
The nutrition series of the program has helped me to make some changes to what we eat in our household. I have cut down on eating sweets in our household, teaching the boys that the sugar in drinks and candy isn’t good for our health. I explain to them that sugar messes up our teeth and causes cavities. I try to cook healthier meals instead of eating fast food all the time. Now, I bake my food and make sure we are exercising together as a family. We do pushups, run and play when we can. I like to get those boys nice and tired but I personally feel much healthier since I have been in this program.
Now, I am graduating from Young Families Connect and the barber school program at Robeson Community College. Gabrielle and I plan to move from our current home which is the same home she had when we met. We are repairing a home we just bought for our family. I have been going there everyday after school to work on this new home. We are excited! I am focused on continuing to build a healthy relationship with my family and take care of my health. I want to reach the new goals I have made for myself and family. My next steps are to move into this home Gabrielle and I just bought; work as a barber full time; and in five years, open my own shop. My life-long plan is to support my community by investing in programs like the barber school program at Robeson Community College and Young Families Connect. I want to be a role model to newcomers to each of these programs, showing that success comes from hard work, dedication, and with support from folks like Ms. Virginia, Ms. Cicely and all the other workers (in YFC). This program truly cares about the families in this community.
I am Arturo, A YOUNG DAD, and this is my story.
Arturo Jones is 23 years old, he lives in Robeson County, NC with his partner Layla and their son Kayson, 4 years old.
As told to Jasmine Getrouw-Moore, Young Families Connect Media Outreach Coordinator (January 2017).
Before Young Families Connect
My son Kayson was born on January 23, 2013 while Layla and I were still in high school. At the time, I felt pretty immature with no real plans for the future but I did have some good guidance and support from my parents. My parents even opened up their home for Layla to move in with us until Kayson was born then got us an apartment for our new little family when Kayson was just a few months old. After high school, Layla started a phlebotomy program and I immediately started working to support my family. I landed a job as a Corrections Officer at the North Carolina Department of Public Safety. I hated that job but enjoyed great benefits, decent income and increased my motivation to return to school. The job was much more mentally challenging than physically challenging and emotionally draining. It’s like being incarcerated: I was there 13 hours a day, in confinement with inmates and it really got quite depressing. I had to be a different version of myself, more firm and very demanding compared to who I am with Kayson. With Kayson, I’m daddy. I actually resigned from the job and decided to enroll as a full time student at Robeson Community College, in the Manufacturing program. I knew I wanted a different life for myself and my family.
Full Time Student
My day to day life as a full-time student has been very busy! Not only am I a full-time student but I am also a part time employee at a local company called XPO Logistics. When I wake up, I am responsible for getting Kayson prepared for school and dropping him off to daycare because Layla works about an hour away during third shift. After I take Kayson to daycare, I then prepare for my school and work day. Depending on her schedule, Layla will take Kayson to work and if there are times where my school and work schedule plus Layla’s work schedule conflict, then my parents, who are very supportive, will step in and help out with Kayson. Studying has been very difficult but I try to study at night after work while Kayson is sleeping or during weekends. Now, I’m a very active student as Public Relations Officer of the manufacturing club. I use my resources- take thirty minute breaks between classes (when available) to do homework, study and also do this same routine on weekends. I also participate in study groups with classmates to do the best I possibly can in school.
Getting to know Young Families Connect
During one of my classes, a classmate and I were talking about our children. She and I especially talked about the high cost of daycare expenses. This is when she shared with me that she was involved with the Young Families Connect program here in Robeson County. She further explained that the program provides all types of benefits like paying for childcare and school. I was concerned about whether or not the program would support fathers but my classmate said that the program does. When I heard this, I asked my classmate if she would provide me with a contact number to the program. When she gave me the number, I decided I would call and find out how I might get involved but first I talked with Layla; she supported the decision to participate in Young Families Connect. I immediately got in contact with Mrs. Virginia who told me to come right on in and told me which documents she would need from me to get enrolled. Talking to Mrs. Virginia really left me with a sense of comfort; she made me feel very welcomed and she’s been great to me and my family.
Young Families Connect: Support, Mentoring and Healthy Behaviors
I’ve been a Young Families Connect participant for two years now. I have really appreciated the way in which YFC offers support to young parents and their families. While Layla has been very supportive, I have been attending the weekly sessions where we learn about different topics like parenting; health and wellness; and self-sufficiency. I even see how I have personally improved myself in these areas of discussion since I’ve been active in this program.
For example, with parenting, I have learned tips on how to become a better parent, how to handle the Terrible Twos. Before, I would try to get Kayson to listen without punishing him but now I have better coping skills for his tantrums and use the skills learned in class to know what to do when I’m feeling overwhelmed. I step to the side and breathe, make sure to not have outbursts with Kayson. These skills have been helpful for mine and Kayson’s relationship and also for my overall health as a parent.
I learned so many things I didn’t know about before during the health and wellness sessions. For example, I didn’t know that second hand smoke was so bad. I’ve been around people who smoke a lot and now I know the dangers of smoking on a family. I have been getting more healthy by going to the gym three times a week. I’ve even lost 20 pounds since joining YFC. When I first enrolled in the program, I didn’t have any health insurance because I left my job where I was covered and I wasn’t eligible for my parents’ insurance. This was a major priority during my enrollment with Mrs. Virginia.
This program not only helped me with becoming a better parent and healthier person but it also relieved some financial stress for my family and me. Self-sufficiency is a major area in this program- helping participants to get jobs with job readiness programs and paying for tuition. During my first year in this program while also in the first year of attending school full time, I had to pay for my books and tuition out of pocket. I asked Mrs. Virginia if there is anything she can do and she provided me with financial assistance on books and tuition all throughout the semester! She also provided me with gas vouchers to relieve the financial stress of paying for gas to attend weekly YFC meetings. Furthermore, Mrs. Virginia helped our family with childcare expenses.
Two years ago, my focus was on continuing school, work and hopefully completing goals like obtaining health insurance, finish my Associate’s Degree in Applied Science and eventually gain full time employment. A good, stable job. Now, my focus is turning my job into a good career that I can be happy with. Graduate- continue to work, continue school, hope to complete goals (health insurance, finish Associate’s Degree in Applied Science**, and full time employment); initially wanted to have a good, stable job. Now my focus is on having a good career that you can be happy with and live my life. Now, I am planning to graduate with my Associates Degree in Applied Science- Electronics in May 2017. I am currently a full time employee at XPO Logistics where I do Customer Service and Dispatch. There, I am able to use my degree. I do plan to further my education with a Bachelor of Science in Physics at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke (UNCP). For now, I am happy with my positon, my co-workers and my life! My ultimate goal is to use my education to make sure their electrical panel on XPO trains are running properly. I have met my goals!
I would like to say to young dads who are in Young Families Connect- stick with the program, embrace all of the resources YFC has to offer. They’re just awesome. A lot of young men feel like a minority because there are so many women. Men also feel like seeking help is not masculine. I think we need to stop being so independent, everybody needs help.
For me, Mrs. Virginia has been the best mentor. She’s my go-to person, someone I can talk to. If it wasn’t for her or YFC, I wouldn’t’ be where I am today. I couldn’t afford to pay my tuition. I wouldn’t have been able to finish the program. Thank you to Mrs. Virginia and the team.