Nonprofit provides refuge for Reno teen moms

by CAMBRIA ROTH

In the 12 years that Paula Crandell was a social worker for Reno nonprofit Casa de Vida there was always one story that resonated with her most.

“This woman named Stephanie came from Las Vegas and had been in a juvenile detention center, and she was on probation, pregnant, and the baby’s father was in prison,” Crandell said. “She came to live at Casa de Vida and was the most remarkable girl I have ever worked with.”

In an act of selflessness, Crandell said Stephanie chose adoption for her baby. When another girl delivered her baby at Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center, Stephanie walked through the snow storm that had all but shut down the city of Reno to be with another teenage mother who was also choosing adoption.

“Stephanie touched me because she could have taken her baby home, but she chose to give it to a family who would be able to take care and give the baby a better life,” Crandell said. “Not only that, but after she had her baby, she stayed a few weeks and helped the other girls.”

Today, Stephanie is still in her baby’s life and has an open adoption with the family.

Stories like these are common within Casa de Vida, an organization that aims to provide housing, care and education for pregnant and parenting teens.

At Casa de Vida, teenage girls are provided with a residence and a live-in housemother. The organization offers an on-site, fully accredited Adult Education program in partnership with the Washoe County School District. Girls also receive parenting, budgeting, nutrition, and child development classes.

For those women who do live with their parents, the organization’s outpatient program provides mothers with free infant clothing, diapers, formula, and baby equipment.

Each girl has a different story, so it varies which stage in their pregnancy they will seek help from Casa de Vida.

“Typically what brings them to us is a major life event, which for an 18-year-old girl might be her boyfriend kicking her out of the apartment, and he has the apartment in his name and the girl isn’t working, but she is pregnant and they are broken up so she will come in hysterically crying and not know where to go,” Crandell said.

On average, about 23 girls per year will live at Casa de Vida throughout their pregnancy. However, Crandell said the teenage pregnancy rate is dropping, and her numbers reflect that.

“Three years ago I would have 18 to 20 girls, and now I have about 16 or 17,” Crandell said. “Reno has done a great job. We have daycare in four high schools, programs like this and Planned Parenthood, and the awareness is there with these kids. They are realizing because of education that ‘I want to wait for this, I’m not ready for that yet’ and they want to go to that football game on Friday night.”

Crandell said that most of these women have a social economic standard that is probably at poverty level, and over 90 percent of them were raised by single parents or are foster kids. It is often a revolving cycle of their mothers who were teen moms, along with grandmother who was also once a teen mom.

“These mothers are low income and they don’t have the tools to succeed,” Crandell said. “I have a lot of people call me and say, “Why should I donate? I don’t agree with teen pregnancy and I don’t think I should support this” and I say, I don’t agree with it either, but the fact is that it is going to happen no  matter what and mothers need support, and we need programs like this or what would happen to the babies?”

The amount of time a mother can stay at Casa de Vida varies by situation, and whether they have a home to go to. Crandell said the organization is more focused on during the pregnancy and not necessarily after because it isn’t “cut and dry”. Rather, they want to educate and give women the tools they need for when they walk out of the door.

“Some are successful, and some aren’t, but my hope is that they all are,” Crandell said.



Categories: WEALTH & POVERTY