New Horizons offers a brighter future

By Pam Bryant

Mother and childKeeping teen mothers and their children together within the foster care system is often difficult. Foster homes that welcome teenage girls cannot always accommodate their children so, many times, the infant and the mother are placed in separate foster homes.
   
To keep them together and help the young family succeed, Clemson University’s Youth Learning Institute formed a partnership with the S.C. Department of Social Services. This collaboration developed the New Horizons Family Center at Clemson’s R.M. Cooper 4-H Leadership Center near Summerton.
   
The center provides a group home where teen mothers in foster care can live with their children in a safe, nurturing environment. At the center, the young mothers learn vital parenting and life skills while completing their education.
   
“Helping teen mothers become self-sufficient and self-confident is our goal,” said Jorge Calzadilla, executive director of the Youth Learning Institute. “With the support of DSS and Clemson University, we have the opportunity to provide a positive home environment where mother and child can bond and have a chance for a brighter future together.”
   
New Horizons can accommodate six teens and their children. “Young mothers at the center must have a desire to parent their children, be willing to continue their education, participate in activities designed to strengthen parenting skills and create a positive environment for their children,” said Sharon Williams, director of the program.
   
After only two years of operation, New Horizons already has celebrated successes. Two young women have completed high school, pursued higher education, and are living independently with their children. Another is completing her senior year at a local high school and plans to attend college. Recently, she won first place in the school science fair and was recognized by the district superintendent at a school board meeting.
   
The young mother has also been given the chance to work in the dining facility at Camp Cooper. She said of her experience at New Horizon, “The fact that I can be here with my child and get help with the day-to-day responsibility of going to school and working, really means a lot. I’m learning about my child and what I need to do to care for her. I’m getting ongoing training and learning skills to prepare me for the real world.”
   


For more information, contact Sharon Williams sharonw@clemson.edu.