Arizona ranks 12th in the country when it comes to teen births. Now, a Valley non-profit is working to break the cycle by helping teen moms get their GEDs and free childcare at the same time!
Twenty-year-old single mom Brianna Koch has a lot on her plate, balancing school and part-time work. She just finished her clinical rotations, working to become a respiratory therapist.
It's an exciting new career for her, and means a more stable future for her 4-year-old daughter, Natalie.
“I'm so thankful. I don't think I would be where I'm at right now if it weren't for MCAP,” Koch said.
Koch graduated from MCAP or the Maricopa Center for Adolescent Parents two years ago.
“I am completely impressed with the young women that come here. They are motivated to change their lives and the lives of their children,” said Lydia Medina.
Medina started the program with Child & Family Resources 21 years ago and says success stories like Koch’s are what it's all about.
“I see it as a new beginning. Research has shown, the educational level of the mother in the family really sets the tone for the education of all of her children,” Medina said.
MCAP teachers help young moms, 16 to 21 years old, get their GEDS with basic parenting classes and free daycare all in the same building.
“Statistics are very grim when we talk about teen mothers and their children. They are at tremendous risk for child abuse and neglect, abandonment, low birth weight. They tend to repeat the same cycle of low attainment, generational poverty and adolescent parenthood,” Medina said.
“I was just worried about how I was going do it. Would I be able to even graduate? Would I be able to be there and provide for my son?" Crystal Casas said.
Casas dropped out of high school her sophomore year.
She tried charter school then night classes and gave up both when she couldn't find childcare.
At MCAP, she doesn't have to worry about that.
“They're like family to me,” Casas said.
“I'm so thankful for this program. It's helping me a lot,” said Jessica Castillo.
She is just one test away from graduating.
Castillo says when she first started coming to MCAP six months ago, her 2-year-old daughter, Nayeli, only spoke Spanish.
Now she's learning English.
And her son, 1-year-old Efrain, is learning to count!
“It's amazing because they're going to have a head start,” Castillo said,.
“About 75 percent of the children who enter our program every year are developmentally delayed. By graduation, more than 80 percent of them are on track,” Medina said.
“And that is what I believe, one of the great keys to breaking these generational cycles of poverty,” Medina said.
“It motivated me to do more,” said Brianna Koch.
For herself, for her daughter, for their future.
“They’re just trying to get you to move forward, you know, work as hard as you can to get where you want to be,” Koch said.
MCAP has a partnership with Rio Salado College, so each of the 50 moms who go through the program every year gets a scholarship to start taking college credits.
Child & Family Resources gets government funding, but the MCAP program relies on private donations.
Click here If you'd like to help or learn more.
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