There are so many life-altering experiences that impact on how we become who we are. One of the “biggies” is when kids have babies. This isn’t a new phenomen but the encouragement and support that young people get today when a baby is on the way is so much healthier from the closetted, punishing shame of the 50’s and 60’s.

I remember a few years ago working on an international film project which brought me into contact with Nancy, a 16 year old with two young children. Wise beyond her years, Nancy held her youngest child in her arms and said the truth: these children are not a mistake. The timing is a mistake. The children are not.

Those words have stayed with me.

So it was interesting to talk with Tina Stephenson this week, coordinator of two young and teen parent projects with the Barrie Community Health Centre. Young herself, Tina runs a resource centre where teen parents can drop in for information, for supper club and lunch time meetings, for community shopping and help in parenting.

The second program has Tina going into the high schools with an outreach program that targets teens who are parenting, as well as doing preventive work in high schools with male and female students. She’s currently working on programs at the Barrie Learning Centre, the Central Young Parent Program, and is beginning a program at Innisdale. She has made approaches to Eastview and North.

And while the prevention program is important, it’s the hands-on support and telephone support line that really has Tina hopping. As young women (and some parenting dads) arrive at the health centre (which is now located at the north end of the former Woolworths building, Bayfield and Ross Streets) they bring their babies and toddlers with them. Each person is responsible for looking after their own child, but just sitting with other young parents and learning that you’re not alone can make a big difference in becoming a mom and dad when you’re still partly a kid yourself.

I’m always interested in what brings people to this work, and Tina’s path is a remarkable one. She refers to herself as a person who’s walked the walk, a street kid at age 14 herself who fought the system and rejected home and hearth, she experimented with the alternative side of life. It was her experience as a street kid at Brock Youth Centre that actually gave Tina the focus that she has today. Her ‘turnaround’ meeting of a youth worker who introduced her to programs like Crossroads International sent Tina to volunteer in India on a women’s project for eight months. She came back changed.

She then studied the Counsellor Advocate for Assaulted Women Program at Seneca College, progressing from there to York University for Women’s Studies and Political Science. She coordinated an international students program at York, helping students from other countries adjust to Canadian culture and academic living. She came to Barrie’s Community Health Centre when her York contract ended.

“I wanted to come home,” she says. “This program speaks to my soul. And, to work and live in my own community is incredible.”

Finding young moms to work with just takes word of mouth. Whether it’s Youth Haven or Brock Youth Centre or the David Busby Drop In Centre, or doctors offices or guidance departments, Tina is getting the word out that young parents have a place for them and their kids where socializing and support are the mainstay of activity.

Aren’t we lucky?

Thanks, Tina.

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Hi im 18 years old and found out today i am about 3 weeks pregnant. i have not told my parents. although i told my boyfriend of 9 months that i am pregnant. he says he cannot handle having a baby. so we are breaking up. i refuse to get an...

Hi im 18 years old and found out today i am about 3 weeks pregnant. i have not told my parents. although i told my boyfriend of 9 months that i am pregnant. he says he cannot handle having a baby. so we are breaking up. i refuse to get an abortion and he thinks im selfish for this reason.. my dad wont take me back if i am pregnant and currently live with my boyfriend. i obviously will not be able to work soon. i have no idea how to start up to get an apartment and enough money to raise a baby. i will keep this baby. i know that it will be hard but i am determined. i had sex i need to stand up to the consequences although i dont believe that this baby was a punishment. i believe everything happens for a reason and i will not take this babys life. so why i am writing you is because i need help on where to live and stuff. thanks.
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