The Young Parents Project (YPP) is an intensive, gender specific home visiting program that addresses the needs of court-involved pregnant/parenting teens and their young children. The project is unique, as there are no other programs in the state that specifically target this population of female youth. It addresses the right to parent with support, safety, and dignity.
Young mothers in the juvenile justice system have multiple risk factors that impact the possibility of re-offending and affects their ability to provide a healthy, safe, and nurturing environment for their children. Many were born when their mothers were teens themselves and face severe challenges. Histories of poverty, lack of family support, violence, abuse, and trauma are deep-seated and multigenerational. Of the 99 young mothers who participated in the project during 2016, 31% had been victimized by sex trafficking. Twenty-four (24) were in the custody of the Department of Children and Families, and of this group, 19 (79%) had experienced commercial sexual exploitation of children. These vulnerable teen mothers who “have so little and need so much” are often invisible to the court and communities in which they live. The high prevalence of complex trauma impedes not only the teen’s ability to make positive life choices for herself, but also impacts the relationship she has with her child.
Currently the Young Parents Project serves about 55 teen mothers and their children in two locations- Miami and Tallahassee. The project is funded across three contracts between the FSU Center, The Children’s Trust of Miami-Dade County and the Department of Juvenile Justice. Support is also received by FSU’s College of Medicine. Referrals for the program are initiated through juvenile court judges, community service providers and Juvenile Probation Officers. The current criteria for participation include youth who:
The Young Parents Project is adapted from Yale University’s evidence-based home visiting model called Minding the Baby®. The model is based on a reflective practice parenting approach designed to address trauma, promote the attachment relationship between the teen and her baby, and support both their physical and mental health needs. Because of their extensive trauma histories, these young parents are often difficult to engage and have not been successful with traditional types of programs. YPP uses a multidisciplinary, professional team comprised of a Social Worker, Infant Mental Health Specialist, and Nurse to provide outreach, care coordination, counseling, and trauma-informed care for these at-risk teen parents.
YPP’s data through the years has demonstrated that the Minding the Baby® relationship-based intervention is key to reducing recidivism, preventing subsequent pregnancies, maintaining school enrollment, and enhancing the parent/child relationship. All services provided by the Young Parents Project are designed to support the teen’s ability to “hold their baby in mind” as the mom-baby relationship becomes the vehicle for change for themselves, as well as their relationships with others.