• Jess

Our Newest Adventure: Sponsoring Teen Moms

* The teens involved here have voluntarily shared the news of their pregnancies with us. However, because this involves personal medical information, Children International asks that we not publicly share specifics. As a result, there will be no pictures in this post, and names have been changed.

Last summer, I was browsing through the list of waiting kids on the Children International website and came across something I had never seen before – a teenage girl who was very, very pregnant. I couldn’t stop thinking about her. She was so young, no longer in school and raising a baby, all while living under very difficult circumstances. I found myself thinking that maybe she could still escape the poverty cycle with a little help… and that’s how Fernanda joined the family.

Almost three months after we started sponsoring her, I was planning a trip to Mexico and had asked to meet Fernanda. The response, when it came, was heartbreaking: Fernanda was no longer part of CI. She had moved in with the baby’s father’s family, putting her outside the CI program area. As a result, she was no longer eligible to receive CI services.

I found myself mourning the loss of my dreams about what I might be able to do for her as her sponsor. But the experience also left me wanting another chance to see how I might be able help a teen mom. So I started to keep an eye out for other similar cases.

Months went by. Then, one day last fall, my attention fell on Mariana. There was something odd about the way the wrinkles fell in her t-shirt. Then I saw that she isn’t in school, despite the fact that she is very definitely at an age where she should be. Strongly suspecting she was pregnant, I jotted down her ID number, made a mental note to keep an eye on her, and moved on. (Sort of.) As she continued to go unsponsored, though, I became increasingly confident that she was meant to join our family. But because we are over capacity at the moment, I tried to adopt an “if it’s meant to be, she’ll still be there when the time is right” philosophy.

Then, about ten days ago, I got a letter in the mail. One of our currently sponsored girls, Natalia, is pregnant.

I absolutely didn’t see this one coming. My first reaction was intense sadness that her life is going to become more challenging. I sent her an extra monetary gift, asking that it be used for her pregnancy and anything she needs for the baby, and made a plan to send another one around two months before the baby is due. Then I sat down and wrote her a letter, asking how she was feeling about everything, reassuring her that we’re here for her always and no matter what, trying to set her mind at ease.

And made up my mind that we need to sponsor Mariana.

This week, I spoke with CI and made arrangements for Mariana’s sponsorship to begin in June as my birthday gift to myself. I sighed a big sigh of relief knowing that everything was squared away, and went about my day.

Then the mail came. There it was: the thin CI envelope, with no excited message about containing a new photo or an updated family record. The envelope that lately always seems to contain the news that someone has been diagnosed with a serious medical condition or is pregnant. I’ll bet you can guess which one it is…

Yes, Fátima is pregnant. In the space of one month, we’ve gone from having no teen moms to having three. I saw those words in the letter and just sat for a minute, letting it start to sink in. And then I did the only thing I could think to do. I got on live chat with a CI representative and asked if an inquiry could be made to find out (1) whether there’s any way Fátima will be able to continue her schooling after this year, given the new circumstances, (2) whether there’s anything we can do to facilitate her continuing her education, and (3) if yes, what the associated costs are.

In every one of these cases, what I want more than anything is to hug these girls and tell them that they have an extra person in their corner, and that I will do absolutely everything I can to make sure they still achieve their goals. And while I want to support their big, long-term goals, it turns out there are also a lot of little ones where there’s room to help, too. For example, we’ve noticed that in a lot of Fátima’s annual pictures, she wears the same clothes from year to year. Will her family be able to provide any maternity clothes for her as her pregnancy progresses? How many extra hours will family members be working to be able to feed and clothe an extra little person? Do the families have everything they need for when the babies come?

My own goal is to be able to send fairly regular extra monetary gifts for all of our sponsored girls with babies for a little while. We won’t be able to provide every single thing they need, but at the very least we can help lighten their load a little. Do you want to help? Do you have questions? Do you want to know more about any of these girls? Let me know! We will be taking contributions on an ongoing basis for the foreseeable future to help the girls and their families.

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