Up With Moms is a program oriented towards teen mothers and mothers-to-be between the ages of 12-21. In 1996 in Turlock alone, 108 children were born to mothers who were 17 years of age or younger, and therefore legally required to attend school. Most, though not all, are from the area of Turlock that is predominantly minority and low income families. There are few programs in the area specifically geared towards mentoring teen mothers and Up With Moms has sought to fill that gap.
The mission of Up With Moms is to support and strengthen teen parent families in the Turlock community through their dedication to high quality support services. Up With Moms establishes partnerships with schools, churches, social service organizations and health care providers that share like values. Although Up With Moms encourages the teens to explore their spirituality as a valuable source of strength, it provides services without regard to racial, ethnic, or religious backgrounds.
Up With Moms' mission emphasizes mentoring: nurturing relationships between mature women, many of whom are mothers themselves, and the teen mothers. This is the main tool used by Up With Moms to create a support system that is both intercultural and multi-generational. Up With Moms seeks to provide the structure and nurturing these teenage mothers need to mature into positive parents and role models.
Mentors and teen moms are not automatically paired off. Instead relationships are allowed to develop naturally, usually resulting in the best matches. Many of the girls do not have good images to model themselves after with their own children and need someone both to instruct them in the care of their babies and to demonstrate care and concern for the girls' personal needs. Mentors are expected to attend mentor meetings and contact their "mentee" once a week, at least, in addition to attending the regular Wednesday night group meeting.
Mentors are encouraged to go beyond this, however, by developing a personal relationship with the girls they feel led to, for example: inviting them to their homes for lunch, visiting the girl at her home, calling her to see how she is doing, etc. It is an important responsibility because the mentor must be prepared to make a fairly long term commitment in the form of an investment in someone else's life.
Up With Moms also encourages the young mothers to educate themselves in child rearing. In the weekly Health and Wellness Workshops they learn to care for their bodies, to pace their energies, and to choose nourishing foods and activities for mind, body, and soul. They learn how they and their children can be safe. In the Parenting workshops, books, songs, games and toys are used to help the young mothers gain knowledge and ideas to encourage their child's developmental skills and to nurture and enjoy their child.