BOSTON – When Ciara Mejia got pregnant when she was 16, she found little support in a school environment where teachers and administrators were not used to educating pregnant women.
“It was an uphill battle going to school every day and having to deal with the stigma,” said Mejia, now policy and communications coordinator for the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy. “The teachers are looking at my stomach, they are not looking at my face. Everyone thought I was going to give up, everyone was surprised to see me after the Christmas holidays, after the February holidays.”
Ms. Mejia, Policy and Communications Coordinator for Mass. Alliance on Teen Pregnancy spoke on Thursday at Teen Parent Lobby Day.
Sharing her story at the State House for a day of lobbying teen parents, Ms Mejia said she faced additional challenges when she began her final year as a mother who had to work breastfeeding in her. schedule and could not get excused absences to bring her child to doctor visits.
Ms Mejia said she often travels from her home in Norwood in Boston to access programs for teenage mothers. She joined other young parents, some of whom were carrying infants and pushing strollers, to advocate Thursday for increased state funding for the programs and services that had helped them.
The Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy is calling on lawmakers to increase funding in next year’s budget for efforts to prevent unintended teenage pregnancies and for parenting programs that support mothers and fathers under 21 years old.
The alliance is seeking $ 14.8 million for the Healthy Families Young Parent Support Program, an increase of $ 500,000 from Governor Charlie Baker’s level included in his spending plan for fiscal 2018. The account has was funded to the tune of $ 14.4 million this year.
Baker recommended a credit of $ 2.4 million for teenage pregnancy prevention, roughly equivalent to the funding allocated this year. The alliance is asking for $ 3 million, saying the increase would allow communities to “improve access to programs for the most needy and hard-to-reach populations,” including youth of color, LGBTQ youth and children in foster care.
On the legislative front, the alliance supports a bill to facilitate pregnant and parental student links in high schools in communities where the teenage birth rate is high, as well as legislation on access to contraception. and a comprehensive bill on sex education.
Cameron Hadfield, an alliance policy specialist for teenage pregnancy, said he had had a “pretty crazy run” since the birth of his son, a month before his own 17th birthday.
“I think one of the most important things for me was finding my motivation through him,” said Mr Hadfield. He said he wanted to help provide other young parents with the “solid foundation” he had.