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Parent-Child Center helps teen parents find their way

August 18, 2002|by ANDREA ROWLAND

andrear@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown-based Parent-Child Center has helped Chastity Hoke cope with a job that's much tougher than she thought it would be when she became pregnant at age 15, she said.

A United Way agency, the Parent-Child Center strives to prevent child abuse and strengthen positive family relationships through such programs as Right From The Start and Parent Aide.

United Way this year allocated more than $16,650 to the two programs, which pair teen parents with volunteer parent aides who mentor and guide the young families.

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Parent aides teach young mothers like Hoke about developmental milestones, alternative forms of discipline, available community resources and how to meet their emotional needs and those of their children, program director Leslie Haney said.

"It's such a good resource. They help you with everything," said Hoke, 18, of Hagerstown. "My parent aide is somebody I can always talk to, somebody who understands what I'm going through."

Hoke has no family support to help with her two children, Austin, 3, and Christian, 3 months, she said.

Her parent aide, Joyce Brown, visits once weekly to serve as a friend and teacher of the skills Hoke needs to handle the stress of parenting, she said.

"As a community, we should walk beside these girls and help them and let them know they're not alone," Brown said.

Hoke has no high school diploma. She dropped out of school after missing too many classes while caring for her firstborn son and working to support her family, she said.

She has had little time to pursue her GED or work since her second child was born, she said. Hoke was recently evicted from her apartment because neighbors complained about the noise from her children and from a roommate who rose early for work after helping Hoke care for her children at night, she said.

Brown helped her find alternative housing.

Through United Way funding, the Parent-Child Center has provided Hoke and other struggling young parents with supplies such as diapers, clothing, bottles, formula and baby wipes.

"They helped me get everything because I didn't have any money and the father didn't want to help me," Hoke said.

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