On May 1, 2014, the D.C. Council Committee on Health held hearings in order to review budget recommendations for the Department of Health (DOH). Three representatives from Healthy Babies Project testified. This is Vanessa’s story as shared with the committee.
By Vanessa H.*
My name is Vanessa. I am eighteen years old and have a beautiful one-year-old girl named Gerree. I am a program participant in the Healthy Babies Project’s Teen Parent Empowerment Program (TPEP) and a resident of the HBP Perennial Transitional House.
I would like to share my experience with Healthy Babies Project (HBP), including how the home visitation aspect of the program helped me and impacted my life as a young mother. Let me begin by saying that HBP has become my second home.
I first came to HBP to take a pregnancy test. Upon finding out that I was pregnant, I was terrified. Every worry came to mind. All I kept thinking to myself was, “Vanessa, you’re a failure.” I worried that by becoming a teen mother I would never be good enough to do anything. Worse, I started to believe every doubt that crossed my mind.
From Doubt to Determination
I was especially scared to tell my mother and my baby’s father about the pregnancy. But I did. Though my mother was hurt and mad, she stood by my side. However, her unfulfilled dreams for me fueled my self-doubt. My daughter’s father, on the other hand, felt that this was the perfect reason to run from his responsibilities. He repeatedly accused me of cheating and demanded a DNA test. Needless to say, his doubt added to those I already had. I continued to believe in my doubts so much that I started to make them reality, first by dropping out of high school.
Thankfully, I had become connected to HBP. HBP’s director, Regine Elie, and staff give me words of encouragement. They began to teach me to not worry or doubt. They motivated me to achieve my potential.
Ms. Regine told me that I did not need to focus on the people who did not want to help and instead consider what is best for me and my child. She also helped me to get connected with a case manager who was concerned about my well-being. My case manager came to my house regularly to check on me and enrolled me in the Teen Parent Empowerment Program (TPEP) so that I could take classes to become a better parent for my daughter. Furthermore, my case manager helped to counsel me throughout my pregnancy to deal with the worries and struggles that I faced.
Support at Every Twist and Turn
Though everyone was disappointed that I did not graduate from high school, Healthy Babies Project immediately began the process of enrolling me in GED classes. I obtained my GED in November 2013 and am currently taking college preparatory classes. In addition, Ms. Regine personally guided me through the steps of obtaining a daycare voucher for my daughter so I could attend classes. I am determined to continue my education in college.
Recently, when my housing circumstances changed, HBP was there for me again. The staff encouraged me to apply for an open spot at Perennial Transitional House, where I now live with my daughter.
HBP has been an important part of my life since I was sixteen years old. This organization has come to my home, offered support, and encouraged me to be better than the person I was yesterday. At every twist and turn, HBP has been there for me and my daughter. They are my family and they genuinely care about making sure that I am successful. They have walked with me through some very dark times in my life. HBP has helped me to make the necessary adjustment from teen to teen mother, and now to a goal-focused young adult. HBP has taught me the skills to go out in the world and strive for excellence for not just myself but also for my daughter, Gerree.
They have never failed me – nor will they fail others entrusted to their care.