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Program helps teen moms become better teens, moms

WILLMAR -- In 2007, when Kayla was 16 years old, she had a baby girl. She was still in high school and living at home.

By working with Kandiyohi County's minor parents program Kayla, who did not want her last name used, learned skills that has helped her become a better mother while at the same time finishing school this spring and working part time.

"This program has helped me so much," said Kayla, as she stood before the Kandiyohi County Commissioners on Tuesday.

She told the commissioners that she's grown as a parent and into a young adult with the help of Brenda Sondrol, the program's social worker.

"I wouldn't have graduated and I wouldn't be standing he-re today," said Kayla, who intends to go to college to become a chemical de-pendance co-unselor. "She helped me through difficulties."

"I'm so proud of her," said Sondrol, who's job is to help guide young parents through a challenging maze of responsibilities.

She does home visits to provide tips on parenting skills and she not afraid to hold the young parents' feet to the fire to make sure they meet program requirements and keep attending school and work.

She sees her job as planting "seeds for these young women to be successful."

"She does so many creative things with the program," said Kathy Nelson, family service supervisor.

The need for such a minor parent program is great.

In the most recent data, from 2006, Kandiyohi County ranks ninth out of 87 counties for birth rates for 15-19- year-olds.

"With my recent referrals, it appears the trend continues," said Sondrol.

In 2008, she said, Kandiyohi County had 48 pregnant or parenting minors that were on her case load.

So far this year, there are 35.

Citing the successes of these young moms, Sondrol said of the 35 young women she currently works with, eight have graduated from high school and seven have "attended school full time, worked part time and have been a full-time mother."

Four of the women have participated in the certified nursing program and are working at an area nursing home, and some intend to continue their education in the field of nursing.

Sondrol said she's working with Rice Memorial Hospital to establish a job shadowing program to give the youth mothers an opportunity to see if they like nursing before they make the investment in attending classes.

Many of the teen moms receive financial support services. Rule changes made last year requires minor parents to either work or take classes in the summer months to retain their assistance, said Sondrol.

"We, as an agency, will continue to plant those seds in educating, providing resources and encouraging our minor parents to become successful in their parenting," Sondrol said.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750