The Eastern Michigan University Wraparound Project started servicing clients about a year ago, and as of today the project has 29 at-risk teen parents in the program.
The project assists parents 16-20 who are at-risk and dealing with court involvement, substance abuse, mental health and homelessness.
Special education professor Laura Sanchez wrote the initial grant to the Department of Justice three years ago, help the at-risk teenage parents of Oakland and Washtenaw counties.
“Research done by EMU…[found] the most vulnerable group to be targeted was teenage parents,” said Lauren Urteaga-Fuentes, Project Coordinator for the EMU Wraparound Project.
Sanchez would leave before the Wraparound Project officially started taking clients, but special education professors Dr. Derrick Fries and Dr. Karen J. Carney stepped up to take her place and are now co-directors of the Wraparound Project.
The Alan Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit agency, said only 64 percent of teenage mothers graduate from high school or earn a GED. This is in comparison to 94 percent of non-pregnant female teenagers.
Studies done by Child Trends, a nonprofit research organization, said nearly 80 percent of teen mothers eventually go on welfare, and 55 percent of all mothers on welfare were teenagers at the time their first child was born.
The project uses mentors to address school completion goals for the clients, as well as becoming a friend, adviser, career counselor and role model.
“There has been a great response from the EMU students that really care and want to get involved,” Fuentes said about EMU students getting involved in the community based project.
About three quarters of the mentors involved are EMU students, most of whom are from the education department or social work program.
“I value the importance of mentoring…helping someone out with their situation,” said Azibo Stevens, an EMU doctoral student in urban education and a mentor in the project.
“[The Wraparound Project] does a good job of pairing people together, and helps us by offering financial support and reimbursement for activities with our mentees.”
Fuentes said, “Homelessness is the biggest problem for teenage parents, their relationship with their family suffers after pregnancy.”
The project looks to stabilize a client’s living situation and relationships by addressing parenting and family functioning goals throughout a client‘s wraparound tenure, while coordinating with other community based services.
This has lead to a strong relationship among Wraparound mentors, such as Stevens, and their clients.
“I have counted on this person to be a friend, and when the official case comes to an end, I want to continue this friendship,” Stevens said.
A client graduates from the program when he or she is no longer cosidered an at-risk teen parent or the clients have turned 21, the age limit of the program.
The success of the project hinges on the importance of the mentors and EMU student involvement to create success stories for the clients that avoids the mentee becoming another child trends statistic.
“The mentee has enrolled back in school to get a high school diploma, worked on their resume to get a full time job, and they have taken steps in their relationship and parenting,” Stevens said. “It has been rewarding to see that growth.”