Working Together to Support Teen Families: A Strategic Collaboration World Cafe
Thank you so much for your participation! Minnesota Department of Human Services l St. Stephen's Human Services l Metropolitan State University Student Parent Center l Community Action Partnership of Suburban Hennepin l Hennepin County Department of Human Services l ISD 287 l Lutheran Social Services l The Link l FamilyWise l Minnesota Transitions Charter School l HIRED l First Care Pregnancy Resource Center l The Family Partnership l Catholic Charities of Minneapolis and St. Paul l YMCA l Hennepin County Child and Teen Check-ups l MyHealth l Hennepin County Public Health l Robbinsdale ECFE l University of Minnesota Student Parent HELP Center l Medica l A Chance to Grow - Turnquist Child Enrichment Center l Brooklyn Center Schools l Minneapolis Public Schools Teen Parent Services l Job Corps l MVNA l Avenues for Homeless Youth l North Point Health and Wellness Center l Otto Bremer Foundation l Simpson Housing Services l Family Housing Fund l Tree Trust l Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) l North West Hennepin Family Service Collaborative l Southside Community Health - Q Health l Way to Grow l Father's FIRST! l African American AIDS Task Force l
In September we hosted a world cafe to address how we can collaborate to provide high quality coordinated services to pregnant and parenting teens in Hennepin County. Over 60 agencies attended to share their insights and perspecitives on what is needed as Hennepin County Teen Parent Connection moves forward in our work. We left the world cafe excited and energized about the feedback we recieved... Here's what we learned!
The issues we face include disorganized systems that inhibit our work efficiency and effectiveness. We lack time to build relationships with other professionals, especially those in other disciplines, which might increase our ability to be more effective in our work with teens. Professionals might not realize what services are available in the community and increasing providers’ knowledge base could be very helpful to teen parent families. Since teens have multiple professionals in their lives, we might feel competitive, rather than collaborative, in deciding who takes the primary role for a particular teen. We need to make sure we are providing consistent messages to teen parents. It’s good for them to hear the same messages from diverse professionals, but it can be detrimental if different professionals in their lives are providing different messages. Warm referrals are important to teens. The better we know each other, the easier those referrals are to make. Some programs may be more ready than others to take on referrals, especially for clients with differing needs. A system to help determine readiness and availability is mostly lacking.
County borders and use of different procedures/policies in different counties make case transfers difficult. The shape and size of Hennepin County presents a problem for providing services. There are also assumptions among many that services are not as needed in the suburbs as they are in the city. There is a dearth of solutions for housing for teen parents in Hennepin County, but especially in the suburbs.
Because we are funded from multiple diverse funding streams, we are not always in charge of our own desired outcomes to report. There is a desire to report success. It might be just as important to report ‘failures’. The funders may also require specific outcomes that are not necessarily relevant to teens’ success. Sometimes it’s the little things that matter to teens, and those things might be hard to get funding for.
Teen parents are a diverse group. Some are good at accessing resources and finding ways to meet their needs; others are less capable. Some want services and others are not as willing to let professionals into their lives. Some have good family support; others have very little. Many are foster children whose foster parents may or may not feel able or willing to provide adequate support for teens and their children. Some may be very rebellious against all authority and perceive themselves as independent and not needing any help; some are less rebellious and feel more dependent. Although teens’ brains have not yet fully developed, some may be more able to think like adults and cope with problems better than others. Some have experienced very poor relationships in their lives and have little knowledge of what healthy relationships look like, while others might have some experience with healthy relationships.
Teen parents in Hennepin County represent many different cultures. Professionals might not feel as comfortable with teens from different cultures and just assume that if a culture-specific program exists, that this will serve all their needs. There are some culture-specific programs available, however, those programs cannot provide all the services teen parents need.
Teens may also differ in their life goals. Some may have planned or been open to the possibility of their first pregnancy, while others did not. Some may want another child that is close in age to their first and do not wish to delay a second pregnancy. Others are eager to learn about birth control. Some may feel ambivalence, leading to sporadic use of birth control. Factors other than desire to have children might play a role in whether or not they practice birth control. Some teens’ life trajectories might have changed for the worse due to having a child at a young age. For other teens, having a child helped change their course to a more productive one. Teens can be good parents, but may need more support than adults.
Many teen fathers may be very interested in being part of their children’s lives. Others may not. Even if they want to maintain contact, they may lack the ability to sustain relationships with their children if the couples are no longer together. This might be his choice or it might be the teen mother’s choice. The young men may lack the support and resources to maintain contact with his children in event of a break-up with the mother. Our current system in decidedly ‘mother-oriented’ and professionals may lack knowledge or resources to help fathers maintain relationships with their children.
What we need to do:
-Take charge of educating funders about teens’ needs and how we might measure successes.
-Increase our ability to build relationships among ourselves.
-Build a better referral system in which professionals indicate their program readiness/capacity to take on new clients with varying levels and types of need.