Seeing teen moms coming back to her pregnancy resource center (PRC) with repeat pregnancies caused Ketra Hancock to think that there had to be another approach to what they were doing.
As co-founder and executive director of Still Waters Pregnancy Center in Kaufman, Texas, Hancock reasoned that even though they were helping, there had to be “something more we could do to stop them from repeating the cycle of unplanned pregnancies.”
One week after praying about it, an article came across her desk about Teen Mother Choices International (TMCI).
Hancock reached out to them, and eleven years later is still using the program.
Hancock said recently in an interview, “It’s a proven model and it works. I believe every pregnancy center should use this program.”
Turning bleak statistics into bright futures
She said that, of the girls who’ve gone through Teen Mother Choices (TMC) at Still Waters, 100% have graduated from high school; 70% have gone on to college; less than 3% have had repeat pregnancies; and 0% are on welfare.
These statistics are nearly the opposite of what typically happens to teen moms, according to teenmotherchoices.org, which reports that the link between teen pregnancy and negative outcomes for the mother and child is strong: only 40% finish high school; only 2% attend college; and only 34% stop the repeated generational cycle of teen parenting, government dependence, and poverty.
For TMC statistics, see the chart below'
Are you pro-life?
The story of the success of TMC’s program is tied into the story of Christa March, founder and CEO of TMC and TMCI. March was a teen mother herself and underwent an abortion at that time.
In a phone interview she talked about how she noticed that through every step of her own difficult times, it was Christians who helped her keep going. She later married the father of her child; they committed their lives to Christ and have raised a family together.
One day March saw some teen mothers in a shopping mall. She couldn’t get them off her mind. She asked herself, “Are you pro-life, or just pro-birth?”
She wanted to go beyond saving babies and take her ministry deeper into saving mothers and their families for generations to come. The message that God created these young mothers and their children for a purpose permeates the TMC program. This gives hope and purpose to their lives, and helps them value others more, especially their children.
What does the Bible say about teen mothers?
Many teen moms come from homes with no father, then raise their own children without a father. What March found when she searched the Bible was that God called Himself “The Father of the fatherless” (Psalm 68:5), and that He promised to defend orphans and widows. She studied what the Bible says about teen mothers and their babies and concluded that they should be treated as widows and orphans.
March reflected on the ideas in the Book of Titus, chapter 2, which urge older women to teach younger women. She developed a mentoring program that pairs an older Christian woman with a young mother, who commits to meeting weekly and set parenting, relationship, financial, educational and career goals.
“It’s not only about saving babies, but about helping girls succeed,” Hancock noted.
TMC addresses the five roles a teen mother plays.
Her primary role is being a teenager – she will act and react like a teen. But she is also a mother, so baby care and parenting are addressed. Another role is student, where the mentor helps her work on school goals and good study habits. She will also be an employee, which includes learning about good work habits, taking care of finances, and coming up with a spending plan.
Her fifth role is as a seeker, where she finds the answer to, “Who am I in this world?”
March said she wants them to know that they and their children “are not here by accident. The universe wouldn’t be complete without you and your child. We help her figure out who she was created to be.”
Linking arms with pregnancy resource centers
March added, “Our desire is to link arms with PRCs. I believe God’s people, whether through the church or PRC, are the only [ones] who can truly impact teen moms.”
She said that everyone has something to offer, such as car maintenance help, babysitting, or meal preparation for the weekly dinner meeting.
TMCI offers lengthy, in-depth training to churches or PRCs that are committed to helping teen mothers succeed.
“We don’t just train, we stay connected,” said March. “Every two weeks we talk with program directors.”
TMCI trains the directors, provides Lifeskills WorkshopTM materials, and helps develop the goal setting and incentive programs.
Hancock appreciates the support she’s gotten from TMCI.
She said, “Christa and her team – they’re all about relationships. They are there for you if you have a hard situation. They are always there to support you.”
To be a part of the program, a church or PRC does a feasibility study to see what types of needs teen mothers have that are specific to their community. Hancock found that the study was not difficult to complete since Still Waters had already been in the area awhile, and the staff was aware of the needs.
How the program works
Once a girl, aged 13 – 23, commits to the three-year-program she is matched with a mentor. She and her mentor meet once a week during the school year for a meal with others in the program. A speaker goes over a topic chosen from the list of over 100 Lifeskills WorkshopsTM that is pertinent to that group’s needs. Mentors also keep in contact throughout the week by phone, or by having the girl in their home for dinner or game night.
Every week mentors work with the young ladies to accomplish their goals. Every other week the teen mothers meet with a financial coach and a goals coach. Both help them make and meet financial, career, educational, parenting and life goals.
Teen mothers earn points to spend in a “store” stocked with home décor, baby items, gas or grocery gift cards and other necessities. They earn points for attending meetings, doing TMC homework, and meeting goals. The program offers support for achieving goals, whether it’s babysitting, helping a girl get her driver’s license, or giving a gas card or bus fare so she can attend meetings.
Through the love, help and commitment of mentors, these teen mothers come “face-to-face with the body of Christ demonstrating the love of Jesus,” March stated in a TMCI website video.
Lives transformed for the better
The results of the program are deep and long-lasting, affecting many generations. TMC has been going for 30 years, and more than 1700 young mothers have graduated from the program.
Tweet This: After 30 years the results of Teen Mother Choices are deep and long-lasting, affecting generations.
One of the TMCI board members, Kathy Chase, commented in an email, “We have helped a myriad of girls transform and become successful in life, and now THEIR children are also moving forward in healthy living. [TMC] is an outstanding way to see ‘people help people’ to live full and productive lives!”
Some PRCs might feel that it is too much work to add another program to an already full schedule, but March believes every Christian “has a gift or talent that can be used” to help teen mothers.
A graduate of the program named Laura had this to say in a 2016 YouTube video:
“If any one of you ever feels like what you are doing is too much, or you don’t feel appreciated by people around you, just remember that you mean the world to at least this one person, and you always will.”
After eleven years with the program, Hancock said of anyone interested in TMC, “I’d highly encourage them to reach out and ask questions.”