Birthing a New Program for Youth in Care

~  by Aisha Bell, R-DMT, LCPC, Family Support Supervisor for the Teen Parenting Service Network

Aisha Bell honed her therapeutic skills by providing mentoring, therapy, supervision, and consultation in community based, outpatient and inpatient settings over the past six years.  She earned her B.A. in Psychology from Bates College, and M.A. in Dance Movement Therapy and Counseling from Columbia College Chicago.  A believer in the healing power of the arts, she continues to indulge in her passion for dance by occasionally teaching, choreographing, and performing.  Ms. Bell serves as Family Support Supervisor for the Teen Parenting Service Network (TPSN), a program within UCAN which works with pregnant and parenting teens who are in the care of the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services.  TPSN’s new community-based doula program will provide support to teen parents, and has provided an opportunity for former teen parents to go through a 20-week training process to become doulas. 

I have been able to experience teen parents from different vantage points, first as a therapist and now as the supervisor of the Family Support department which provides 1:1 parenting through UCAN’s Teen Parenting Service Network (TPSN).

One way that UCAN’s vision, “youth who have suffered trauma can become our future leaders,” is lived out is through the development of the Doula program.  TPSN has partnered with HealthConnect One for a three-year pilot program to bring Community-Based Doula services to our teen parents.  This training affords me yet another perspective, as I interact with women who were teen parents.  These are women who have walked in similar shoes to our clients as teen parents, and some whose experiences closely mirror our clients’ in that they were once in the care of DCFS.

Regardless, one message these women all share is the necessity for programs such as these that provide support for young mothers during the vulnerable but beautiful experience of bringing a life into the world and becoming a mom.

For me, one of the training highlights came early on when the facilitators asked, “Who in this room was a teen mom?”  The floor was immediately open and volunteers welcomed the opportunity to share their experiences as teen parents.  One by one, these women shared the disappointments, triumphs, the good and the bad.  They shared the reasons they were brought to this work, and their hopes to inspire and help other young moms.   The testimonies were powerful, heart wrenching, encouraging, funny, uplifting, and honest.

In that moment, I was inspired and reminded that this program allows an opportunity to service this population in such a unique and special way; many participants echoed the sentiment, “This is something that I wish that I had.”  Beyond former teen parents, the training is filled with moms, and women with a heart for this work and this population.  The stories they tell and the openness in the room re-energizes me as I think about the hard work that is ahead.

These moments are all ushered in through the educational, yet hands-off approach of this course.  I see something special occurring in the trainings: Women healing from their own traumas, being allowed to tell their stories, building a network and friendships in the training room.  It is in these moments that I reflect on our clients, and am hopeful for the lessons they will learn, and the ways they will feel supported and be impacted as they connect to these women. It is also in these moments that I see Doula personified: Women being there to support other women going through birth.  In the class it is symbolic — birthing a new self, re-experiencing birth, birthing ideas for how it will be different for themselves and others going through the birth experience, and birthing a new program.

(Photo of Infant – Courtesy of UCAN)

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HealthConnect One is committed to sharing a variety of perspectives on pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and early parenting. Each guest post reflects the writer’s experience, and is not necessarily the view of HealthConnect One. What do you think? We invite you to connect with us on Facebook or Twitter and let us know.

2 Comments

  • Anonymous

    This is going to be an amazing journey for TPSN. The staff is ready and willing to assist in the amazing journey with our clients.

    • We have been inspired and exicted to work with all of you, and are thrilled to see you now on the brink of this journey with clients… sending you all hugs!

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