Teen parents reach for help

Resource fair offers young moms, dads a way to seek services

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

Published:

 

Teen parents searching for help found some assistance Saturday afternoon at a resource fair aimed at aiding young parents.

A recent Washington State Department of Health survey revealed that most pregnant and parenting teens aren't sure where to turn for health and social services.

"The teens don't know how to access the resources," said Kara Seaman with Clark County Public Health. "They don't know who to call or what resources exist."

Clark County Public Health brought about a dozen local service providers to one place, the Robert C. Bates Center for Educational Leadership, providing area teenagers and young parents with the information they need, Sea

man said. Saturday was the first time the county hosted such an event, she said.

The event included demonstrations and instructions on how to make baby food; information about the high school Graduation, Reality and Dual-Role Skills (more commonly known as GRADS) program for pregnant and parenting teens; and singing and playtime with the Love, Talk, Play program. Teens also received information about dental services, health insurance, Head Start, parenting classes and prescription drug discount cards.

Bryce Hoxeng, 19, and his girlfriend, 18-year-old Gabby Swalko, stopped by the fair to see what it had to offer. Swalko is about seven weeks pregnant.

"We came down here to find out as much as we can to be prepared for it," Hoxeng said.

The Vancouver residents said they found the baby food instructions the most helpful.

"I'm definitely gonna do it," Hoxeng said. "That saves a lot of money, and it's healthier than the rest of it."

Leslie Ripplinger of Vancouver brought her niece, Hayly Thompson, and her niece's boyfriend, Zachariah Dekorte, to the resource fair to find information about parenting classes, communication classes and job resources.

Ripplinger was also looking for guidance. While Thompson, 16, and Dekorte, 17, both currently live with her, she's had trouble accessing resources for the teenagers since she isn't a legal guardian.

"I get roadblocked every time I try," Ripplinger said.

Thompson hoped to find resources for future housing. Ripplinger said she tried to find housing for the teens, but there are no options that would allow them to stay together.

This school year, Ripplinger was successful in enrolling the couple in the GRADS program at Evergreen High School. The course, Thompson said, has been a huge help.

"Anything that will help me become a better parent," said Thompson, who is 18 weeks pregnant. "I'm a teenager and don't know if I can live up to the potential parent I want to be."

Dekorte said the couple found plenty of useful information at the fair. They appreciated the information about raising children with hyperactivity or other disorders, and plan to sign up for parenting communication classes.

"I think most of them would be very helpful," he said. "And it'll help us a lot in the future."

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546; http://twitter.com/col_health; http://facebook.com/reporterharshman; marissa.harshman@columbian.com