Right now there is a teenager riding the 4 subway train through New York City, wondering where to go. Her mother kicked her out because she is pregnant. Her teacher told her to drop out of school. Her boyfriend won’t speak to her. She is vulnerable. Nestled between you and me on our train home from work, her belly is too small for us to notice. She feels invisible. But she has rights, and she is not alone.
There are youth facing the challenges of pregnancy, abuse, neglect, violence, isolation, poor education and limited healthcare all over the world. There are young people who need support, resources and skills to realize their own potential in every community.
Inwood House has served young women like her in New York City for 183 years and knows she needs hope, guidance, protection and support to change her trajectory. As a grantee of World Childhood Foundation USA, Inwood House is also not alone. Our partnership bridges work in New York with similar efforts across the USA and the world. Our shared commitment to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child — the belief that every child, no matter the challenges they have faced, or they face now, has the right to “develop physically, mentally, morally, spiritually and socially in a healthy and normal manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity” — is fundamental to our work.
As a long-time partner organization of World Childhood Foundation USA, Inwood House is part of this community of organizations offering effective services for the most marginalized children in New York and across the nation. This April, Childhood convened grantees doing this work in their communities across the USA to share experiences, network and ask together: How do we recognize and foster the rights for all children? How do we ensure a better tomorrow for our city and our country and our communities? The grantees’ work shared at the event demonstrated the value of investing in enriching young people’s lives and how much more effective it can be than trying to “repair” adults.
If this young woman on the 4 subway train makes her way to Inwood House, her well-being will be the first consideration. She will have access to services through the Continuum of Care providing safe housing in a residence, academic support and a counselor to help her build her goals and her confidence in her strengths and talents. She will be able to develop stronger relationship skills, and improve her mental, reproductive and physical health. She will gain tools to build or mend her relationship with her family members and the community. And, she will get parenting guidance, exposing her to experiences she may otherwise never have had.
Teen pregnancy has been a core focus of Inwood House since 1830, but the heart of our work is a focus on empowerment, not pregnancy. Inwood House believes young people deserve the chance to succeed — no matter the nature of their circumstances. Young parents and their babies do not have to fulfill the statistics that predict extreme struggle and dependency. Youth surviving trauma, abuse, disenfranchisement, violence or other symptoms of poverty do not need to be defined by these difficulties. Programs builds on young people’s strengths to help them get knowledge, tools and resources to make responsible decisions and become a positive force in their communities.
The programs Childhood supports around the world aim at preventing teenage parenting, but when it happens, to be there as a source of strength and support. Childhood is committed to investing in innovation and replication of models to prevent harm to children. Inwood House is helping youth realize their dreams. Together we are partners in giving all children a childhood.
This article has been co-authored by Charlotte Brandin, Executive Director, World Childhood Foundation USA & Linda Lausell Bryant, PhD, Executive Director of Inwood House. The article was published in The Huffington Post Blog June 14, 2013.
Inwood House helps teens take charge of their lives and become healthy, self-reliant adults. By providing a wide range of services to K-12 students, pregnant and parenting teens and their children in New York and New Jersey, Inwood House improves life-long outcomes for thousands of youth from vulnerable communities. Programs develop youth as whole people by supporting their health, mental health, education, family & community relationships, self-esteem, personal goals and talents, employability and ability to evaluate and make choices. Inwood House is a source of hope, guidance and opportunity. Learn more: inwoodhouse.com, on facebook.com/Inwood.house and on twitter @inwoodhouse.