Catherine's House was created in response to the growing problem of "children having and raising children" in Little Rock, Arkansas. The percentage of births to single teens in Pulaski County is one of the highest in the nation (12.25%). Arkansas ranks second in the nation for percent of live births to 15-19 year old adolescents. The mission of Catherine's House is to reach out and provide hope to low-income young parents by organizing and operating a family-oriented development center to serve to health, social and educational needs of pregnant and parenting teenagers.
The program enables teen parents to complete their high school education; to develop life skills; to be effective and responsible parents; to have a meaningful career that will support them and their child; to have access to the best medical care for themselves and their child; to have the emotional support they need and to be productive citizens. Teenagers accepted into the program sign a contract stating that they will not become pregnant again while in the program.
Catherine's House provides early childhood education for the teenager's child and a computer tutorial program that evaluates the teenager's level of education and then designs a program to enable them to progress to their proper grade level. Catherine's House also works with the business community to identify skills, employee characteristics and the job needs of the community in efforts as job placement and success are critical factors for teenage parents being able to live independently of welfare. Ongoing collaboration with local colleges and universities has enabled assistance and support in opening doors to high education for parenting teens.
The Sisters of Mercy of Mount St. Mary Academy, a high school for girls, and a representative group of citizens developed the concept of Catherine's House as a way to promote change through education and health for the low-income of the community. In August 1995, it received a grant for $1.5 million from Catherine's Fund, a funding program of the Sisters of Mercy Health System. The facility is named after and reflects the spirit of Catherine McAuley, the founder of the Sisters of Mercy, who also started an education program for poor women in Ireland.
Since its inception in April of 1995, the program yearly works with an average of 30 teenagers representing grades 9 through 12.