Director: Teen Parent Program will be missed

Liliana Castillo

When Brittany Barrows learned she was pregnant, she was a senior at Clovis High School. Five months later, she enrolled in the Teen Parent Program.

“I absolutely love it,” the 19-year-old said. “I love everything, especially the parenting classes. We learned things like ways to better yourself and to teach your children. Things I needed to know.”

After 15 years, the Teen Parent Program has lost its funding.

The program, funded by the Children Youth and Families Department and administered by the Eastern Plains Council of Government, got the official news last week that it would end Nov. 30.

Program Director Pat Beck said the nine teen parents who are involved are sad to see it go.

Teens have to work and earn what the program offers. Mothers and fathers up to age 22 are eligible as long as they stay in school or are employed and participate regularly.

They work on a reward system, earning gift cards for local stores and services or “Momma and Daddy bucks,” which they use to pick items from the program’s in-house store full of things for the baby and home.

Incentives are earned through successfully completing classes such as child abuse and neglect prevention, sexually transmitted disease prevention, birth control, nutrition and group counseling, Beck said.

Beck said there are similar programs in the community but they don’t require the parents to stay in school.

“Our main goal is to reduce pregnancy among teens,” Beck said. “Our second goal is for them to be in school.”

Beck said she has been in contact with other similar programs in the area such as the Pregnancy Resource Center and a parenting program at Lincoln-Jackson Family Center.

“It’s tough,” Beck said of the program ending. “I’m going to stay in touch with the girls and refer them to other agencies. If the program ever comes back in our area, I want them to know about it,” Beck said.

Beck said the program is one the area needs. Sandy Chancey, who will take over as executive director of EPCOG Dec. 1, said the programs is one of five the council administers.

“I think the program is badly needed in this community … but when federal budget cuts come down, there’s really nothing you can do about it,” Chancey said.

Chancey said funding for the five programs are specific to each program and the money comes from both state and federal funding sources.

“I’m sad to see it go, but I’m glad it was there for me,” Barrows said.