On January 22, 2018, Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS) became the host of the Teen Parent Program, which has served hundreds of pregnant and parenting teens in the Grand Traverse area for more than 40 years.
Long known as the Doula Program, it began at the Child Guidance Center in 1977 with funding from the Michigan Department of Mental Health. Services had begun two years earlier as a pilot program in conjunction with the Grand Traverse County Probate Court Volunteer Program and Munson Medical Center. Volunteer mentor moms, called Doulas, provided vital guidance and support by establishing one-on-one trusting relationships with teens grappling with the unexpected role of young motherhood. After its first 20 years of providing the program, the Child Guidance Clinic reported that it had served 739 families and involved 442 volunteers and had 65 active volunteers and seven Volunteer Co-Coordinators at that time.
In 2004, the Child Guidance Center physically moved the Doula Program’s operating space to Traverse City High School. After the Child Guidance Center closed, Doula became a service provided by the Women’s Resource Center in 2005. The program remained housed at TC High.
In late 2015, the WRC Board determined that the Doula Program was not central to its core mission to address domestic violence and sexual abuse. With a planning grant from Rotary Charities, the WRC hired a consultant in Fall 2016 to adapt the program, find it a new home and strengthen collaboration with organizations providing services to young parents and their children.
Traverse City Area Public Schools agreed to host the program on a three-year interim basis if sufficient resources could be secured. In addition to providing program space for 14 years, the school district has financially supported and operated a day care center at TC High School for the children of students completing their high school degrees.
Led by local philanthropists Brenda Biederman, Sondra Shaw-Hardy, Susan Kuras and Susan Janis in Fall 2017, a committed group of community donors pledged three years of budgetary support to continue and expand services. The Community Foundation agreed to be the program’s philanthropic partner to receive donor funds to provide operating grants to TCAPS.
This community generosity made it possible to transfer the program to TCAPS from the Women’s Resource Center in late January 2018. Subsequently renamed Generations Ahead, the revitalized program offers three critical components. Volunteer mentor moms provide the trusting relationships that pregnant and parenting teens indicate makes the most profound difference. To foster long term financial independence, program participants receive guidance and support to focus on their continued education, employment readiness and career preparation. Formal partnerships with existing services are creating a community network effectively focused on the distinctive needs of teenage parents and their children.