The days are getting warmer, the birds are singing louder and the trees are getting greener. Spring is here! One of the hallmarks of spring is celebrating mothers. This year’s Mother’s Day celebrations are bound to look different than before. With physical distancing measures in place and most people practicing some form of isolation, we can’t honour the mothers in our lives the same way as before. Still, it’s more important than ever to recognize and uplift those who are facing new challenges to parenting during the COVID-19 pandemic.
YWCA Toronto’s Teen Mothers’ Program provides support to young women ages 14-22 who are pregnant, parenting, or have their children in the care of a child protection agency. The program serves participants from Scarborough, Pickering, Ajax, Markham and Etobicoke, but there are no catchment area restrictions. The program focuses on developing positive parenting and life management skills. They offer parenting workshops, parent-child interactive activities and other workshops based on participants’ requests and needs. They try to support the moms (and their children) by linking families to appropriate resources, providing referrals, community accompaniment, one-on-one counselling and advocacy.
The program is run by a program worker and supported by a Registered Early Childhood Educator and several students throughout the year. The drop-in groups usually have anywhere from 4 to 12 moms but staff can see or speak with up to 20 moms a week. Some participants don’t attend the groups but access support on the phone, in the community or one-on-one. Annually this program supports approximately 100 moms and 110 children.
I reached out to Program Worker, Amy Brooks, to learn more.
How has the program adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic?
The YWCA Teen Mothers’ Program is unable to provide the weekly drop-in groups and in person support due to COVID-19 but we are continuing to adapt and find new ways in which we can connect with the moms and their children. The moms and I are communicating on the phone, through text, email, and video chatting. I think communicating with the moms during this pandemic has actually become more consistent and more in-depth. We are all less distracted by other usual daily obligations and are able to spend more time reflecting and focusing on our well-being. In addition, the Registered Early Childhood Educator is developing ways to connect with mothers and their children in an effort to support early learning and development
What are some of the challenges facing the parents in this program during COVID-19?
Relationships that were under stress before have been exacerbated by the quarantine and
many of the moms are finding it really difficult to be parenting full-time without a break (usually provided through daycare, school, or co-parenting). We have several children in the program who have been diagnosed with Autism and the change in daily structure has been an added stressor as well. One mother in particular has not been able to video chat with her family who resides outside of Canada because she is unable to use the computer at the library.
What are some of the examples of resiliency you’ve seen from program participants and/or staff during COVID-19?
I have been so proud to see the program participants continue to access the support of the program and continue to work on their self-development. We have had to create additional ways to meet the needs of our clients and to ensure that we are maintaining our connections with participants and one another.
What is a Mother’s Day message you’d like to send to all of the parents in your program?
I hope the time you have been spending with your children has shown you that joy can be found in the little things. Having meals together, reading, singing, creating and cuddling are essential services! Celebrate this Mother’s Day knowing that you are doing the most important job in the world.
Help us continue to support these young women and their families during COVID-19 and beyond by making a donation - big or small. Without the help of our community we couldn’t do the work we do. Thanks for your support!
By Amy Brooks and Lauren Pragg