The Momma Moments program developed by Choices for Youth (CFY) was recently selected as one of the winners of the second annual Making the Shift Youth Homelessness Prevention Awards.
We spoke with Jeannie Piercey, Program Coordinator for Momma Moments, to learn more about the initiative, why it was designed, how it fills the gaps in preventing youth homelessness, and much more.
About the initiative
The Momma Moments Program is a peer-to-peer support and strengths-based group for young parents or pregnant mothers. It provides moms and their children with wrap-around support to navigate the challenges of motherhood.
Momma Moments offers four weekly group meetings where a meal and on-site childcare are provided. During these meetings, youth are taught about a variety of topics including:
In addition, staff act as advocates for the well-being of their program participants and their children. Volunteers provide child minding services, and staff and volunteers of Momma Moments prepare meals for moms and kids - with extra to take home.
The young mothers and kids in this program work hard to overcome challenges and build brighter futures. By combining healthy interventions for the mom, and taking a prevention approach with the kids, this program ambitiously works towards delivering intergenerational change by breaking cycles of poverty and homelessness.
For over a decade, Momma Moments has promoted positive outcomes for young families by contributing to reduced rates of child apprehension, housing insecurity, and emergency healthcare service usage, while simultaneously supporting mothers to complete high school and secure employment.
This program has:
- Supported 84 Moms / 128 children
- Served 1109 meals
- Provided 2922 family support actions
In 2009, the Momma Moments program was established by collaborating with community organizations, government & health authorities. At this time, CFY staff saw a significant number of child apprehensions among the mothers they supported and no formalized process of coordination among systems.
They realized that these young mothers needed individualized wrap-around supports to navigate the many challenges that they faced. They also recognized that many young mothers were looking for a safe, supportive environment to connect with other young mothers.
After three highly successful years of piloting the program, with zero child apprehensions among the mothers they supported during that period, the Momma Moments program was formalized at CFY. Following a community mapping needs assessment, a second programming site was established to better serve the many mothers who were commuting to access the program.
Benefits of Partnership and Collaboration
Partnerships and collaboration are essential to the work that CFY does because one organization alone cannot fill all the gaps within the sector. It is important to reach out to other service providers, including those that provide housing in the community and rely on the shared resources and free space that they are able to provide.
Jeannie stated, “It takes many people engaged to support a family and in response to the Momma Moments program, I think it truly does take a village and we build our village wherever we can and embrace partnerships.”
One of the key takeaways for Choices for Youth was about the value of collective action at the local level. They have found that collective action at the local level is essential for bringing about broader change. Advocacy work can be a very difficult road that relies on the coordination of many systems in order to be successful.
Another key takeaway is the importance of creating programs that are barrier-free and adapting programming to meet the needs of your community. In order for a program to be classified as barrier-free, CFY believes that it must be guided by harm reduction principles, be non-judgmental, and meet young people where they are at. It is also important to allow youth to guide the trajectory of the program by providing them with the opportunity to offer input into what is working and what is not.
Community Impact of Initiative
Through the interview, we heard a story about a young woman who was connected with Choices for Youth for over 10 years and accessed the services provided through the Momma Moments program.
At 16 years old, Sarah had trouble at home caused in part by her drug use. Sarah moved out to live with a friend who later introduced her to CFY.
“At 16, I got pregnant and stopped using drugs. I attended the CFY healthy baby club sessions, where we would get tips and information for being a new mother, peer support, and a voucher to buy milk and fruit to give me and my baby the nutrition we needed. On the morning of March 6, 2014, my beautiful son was born. When my son was born, I was able to get support from the Momma Moments program.” - Sarah
When Sarah’s son was one year old, she relapsed and her son was taken out of her care and placed with her mother. As a result of the help she received from Momma Moments staff, she moved into a new home and was able to begin the process of getting her son placed back in her care quite quickly.
“My son and I would go to the Momma Moments program on weekends, where I would get weekly support from staff and meet with other moms who I will consider close friends for the rest of my life…With the help of Momma Moments. I got my son home. ” - Sarah
A couple of years later, Sarah relapsed again and her son was placed with her mother for the second time. Once again, the staff from Momma Moments helped Sarah get the help she needed, and when Sarah a healthier space, Momma Moments supported her in obtaining her GED and in reconnecting with her family and son.
“Slowly we began rebuilding a relationship again…The pandemic was a blessing in disguise, because of schools being closed, I could have more visits with my son, and thus reunification happened faster than it ever would have. In May of 2019, my son came home.” - Sarah
Sarah’s son went back to school which gave Sarah the time she needed to work on improving herself. Sarah has since landed a job and has mended her relationship with her family.
“My son is happy and thriving at home. My wonderful boyfriend has been by my side for seven years and [for] four of them we have been clean together. I truly do credit Choices for Youth for the way my life is now.”
About the Making the Shift Youth Homelessness Prevention Awards
This year marked the second annual Making the Shift Youth Homelessness Prevention Awards Program. The Awards are presented by Canada Life and co-led by A Way Home Canada and the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness. They were created to celebrate the important work happening to prevent youth homelessness in Canada.