The statistics are disturbing: teenage pregnancy rates in the Bronx are the highest of any borough in New York City and three times the national average. The rate of depression among adolescent mothers is as high as 44 percent and of substance abuse up to 52 percent. Teen moms also suffer high rates of exposure to traumatic events, including parental abuse and incarceration.
This is where a new program, ParenTeen, created and hosted by SBH Health System (St. Barnabas Hospital), hopes to fill the void.
“These stressors leave teenage parents in the Bronx with limited resources to care for themselves, nurture bonds with their children, or effectively care for their babies,” said Dr. Emily Spengler, a pediatrician at SBH Health System. “The creation of ParenTeen, a program for teenage parents with young children (under the age of one-year-old), is intended to build upon the successful components of existing programs while placing a greater focus on the mental and emotional well-being of teenage parents in the Bronx.”
According to Dr. Spengler and her co-medical director Dr. Sheryl Kho, a developmental behavioral pediatrician, ParenTeen includes a curriculum designed to increase the resilience and engagement of teenaged parents through knowledge, peer-support and self-care skills. The free program, paid for by a grant from the Dammann Fund, will run weekly over a six-week period at the Teen Health Center (located at Union Community Health Center, 260 East 188th Street)
“Traditional parenting programs for teens have shown modest success in improving outcomes such as increased parental knowledge about general parenting, babies’ sleep time and parent-child interaction,” said Dr. Kho. “We intend to add to this by teaching coping and self-care skills, supporting and promoting self-awareness, and addressing those underlying stressors that create barriers to effective parenting skills.”
Drs. Kho and Spengler are establishing ParenTeen along with Caroline Davis, Director of Teen Services at the Teen Health Center. Ms. Davis will act as Co-Facilitator for the group and will be joined by a former teenage parent from the community who will act as a Peer Leader.
The program is scheduled to begin in May with six to eight co-parenting pairs. For more information, call 718-618-8154.
For Immediate Release
Howard Matzner/Steven Clark