The statistics are alarming: 45% of children in California live in low-income households. Of that group of children, 57% are Black and 61% are Latino. Youth from low-income neighborhoods are 20% more likely to end up in prison and 61% of the incarcerated population are Black or Latino. Youth With a Purpose (YWAP) has made it its mission to weaken the school to prison pipeline and improve outcomes for low-income youth. And their plan starts at the very beginning: before birth.
“Our mission is to plant seeds of hope, and water purpose by providing supportive services to minority youth and young adults,” stated YWAP. “African-Americans have higher infant mortality rates, lower levels of support, and higher levels of stress during and after birth. Our mission is to decrease infant mortality rates by increasing support, providing opportunities to foster a positive sense of self in pregnant moms, decrease stress, find outcomes on post-partum support, and engage the community.”
YWAP directly addresses Black infant and maternal mortality through its Mommy Mentor Academy (MMA) which provides respite care, child care assistance, transportation, spiritual support, and postpartum recovery. In addition, MMA looks at maternal health in a holistic way by addressing all factors contributing to maternal stress and wellbeing. It fosters a sense of self via an 11-week mentorship program (“Hello Beautiful”) which includes free makeovers to build esteem and increases protective factors through building community and care, culminating in graduation and completion certificates.
Mentees have praised the program, saying, "I love being a part of such a strong community of black women," and, "I feel supported and heard!" The program is also helpful for those who are not in close proximity to their community—offering another level of support. One mentee said, "Now that I have a mentor, I feel better about being away from my family that lives in a different state.”
Youth With a Purpose and The Village Fund
Youth With a Purpose used its funding in partnership with Harper Haven to expand its current services by creating a mommy mentor cohort for its Hello Beautiful program co-led by Levy Harper, a special education para-educator and creator of the Hello Beautiful curriculum, and Shameka Beaugard, who has a Masters degree in Social Work with an emphasis in Children, Youth, and Family Services. Part of this expansion includes increasing communications efforts to educate the community on the impact of Black infant and maternal stress via newsletters, text campaigns, social media, tabling, and a billboard with Black infant mortality statistics and ways to help.
Additionally, stipends for Hello Beautiful mommy mentors, academy speakers, and teachers will be provided through grant funding.
Over the past two years, 20 women and youth have already successfully graduated from the academy. “The Hello Beautiful program allowed me to believe in myself again,” one graduate said in a testimonial. “My credit score has increased; I am enrolled in school to be a nurse, and now I have my own apartment with my children.”
Immediate plans for the program expansion include enrolling 10 seasoned moms to mentor 10 younger moms under the age of 29. The mentors will meet with mentees as needed, assist with planning and implementing ”mommy dates” (movie nights, spa days, picnics, and book clubs), operate an exclusive group chat to answer mentee’s pregnancy-related questions, assist with facilitating the academy, and provide specialized postpartum recovery care packages.
“In Fortune 500 companies, 71% have (implemented) mentoring programs and 97% of those with a mentor say they are valuable,” stated YWAP. “Our goal is to take the concept of mentorship and add it to pregnancy.” Hello Beautiful has proven results to help women transition from mentally depleted with low self-esteem to full steam ahead!
So far, the program has been a success. “The Village Fund has helped YWAP tremendously!” Beaugard stated in a follow-up email. The program has been running since the beginning of 2021 and resumes from potential Mommy Mentors are still coming in. “The Antelope Valley loves the Mommy Mentor Network and received about 15 resumes to be mommy mentors,” said Beaugard.
“Expanding our capacity allows us to grow and hopefully create this program as a yearly program for black moms,” stated YWAP. “Although this is a 1-year pilot program, our program can be replicated and sustained long term. We hope to continue to break the stigma that black women can come together and lift one another up.”
For more information on the Village Fund, please visit www.blackinfantsandfamilies.org/the_village_fund.
Instagram: @ywap_CA, @harper_hav3n