Teen parents gaining support, skills to lower risk for child abuse


One Hope United parenting classes help Dominique Perez feel "more comfortable about becoming a mother," she said. Pictured are Dominique and her daughters, Jada, 10, Jannell, 3, and newborn Justyce.
One Hope United parenting classes helped Dominique Perez feel “more comfortable about becoming a mother,” she said. Pictured are Dominique and her daughters, Jada, 10, Jannell, 3, and newborn Justyce.

CHICAGO (April 11, 2013)–In honor of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, One Hope United is celebrating the work it is doing to prevent child abuse, strengthen families and create healthy communities. The agency also launched a digital campaign, http://www.BlueRibbonMonth.org, aimed at raising awareness and funds while highlighting One Hope United services and programs.

One Hope United programs help people like Waukegan, Ill., resident Dominique Perez.

Perez enrolled in the agency’s parenting classes at Waukegan Alternative/Optional Education Center when she became pregnant at 14.

“I was scared and I had no idea what I was doing,” she said.

More than 360,000 teen girls give birth each year in the United States. Teenage parents are at risk for abusing their children as they are confronted with the responsibilities of caring for a child. A lack of social support can contribute to the link between young parents and child abuse, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

Perez, now 25 and married with three children, is an example of how valuable services for at-risk families can be. Before becoming pregnant she was often in trouble and was moved to the alternative school after fighting at her previous school. One Hope United’s parenting classes helped Perez learn patience and how to communicate with her child, along with the basics such as changing diapers and breastfeeding.

“The classes made me more comfortable about becoming a mother,” said Perez, who was raised by her grandmother and uncle because her parents were young and not ready for parenthood.

Perez said her three girls, 10, 3 and 2 weeks old, benefit from the parenting skills she learned through One Hope United, including keeping them on a daily routine and setting boundaries.

These skills also are useful in her job. For the past three years, Perez has worked at One Hope United with her parenting class teacher, Carleen Otto, providing child care for parents while they attend classes. She uses her skills of patience, repetition and good communication when caring for the children, while also having fun and ensuring that they know they are in a safe environment, she said.

“It is just a pleasure and a joy to be around Dominique,” Otto said. “I’ve loved watching her grow into the woman she is today.” Otto, a parenting group facilitator, also feels lucky to have her on staff because she knows she can “always count on Dominique.”

In April and throughout the year, the Blue Ribbon Month Campaign website gives people a place to go to help raise awareness and financial support for One Hope United’s programs that prevent child abuse and prepare children for a prosperous future.  There are many ways to get involved: host a fundraiser at your school, church or work; spread the word on social media or by forwarding articles through email; or make a donation.

Follow One Hope United on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/1hopeunited and Twitter @1hopeunited. Use #1hope4kids when tweeting.

About One Hope United: One Hope United is a private human-service organization that offers a diverse array of prevention, intervention and community-based programs. The agency serves thousands of children and families with a vision of ensuring the successful transition of our children to healthy and productive adults. For more information, visit www.onehopeunited.wpengine.com.


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