The U.S. teen pregnancy rate is more than twice as high as that of any other country in the industrialized world. Despite the half a million teens bearing children each year, there are only a few residential homes providing services for pregnant and parenting girls in Allegheny County.
On March 12, 2006, Gwen’s Girls opened its residential facility. The creation of this Group Home expanded our comprehensive continuum of services to meet the needs of court-adjudicated pregnant and parenting girls, ages 13 to 21, in Allegheny County. This home was established to address the complex issues of what is the most vulnerable subset of girls: abused and neglected girls who find themselves pregnant. Research, as well as everyday reality, tells us that if left unsupported, this population will continue the cycle of poverty, abuse and neglect, and the social problems that plague our society will compound.
The goal of the residential program is to provide a safe, secure environment where at-risk pregnant and parenting girls have the opportunity to develop the skills and understanding that will allow them to live as self-sufficient, healthy and empowered women and to raise healthy babies.
Although our specialty remains with pregnant and parenting teens, we expanded our program to include non-pregnant and parenting girls in January 2007. This expansion was a result of the fact that most of the programs designed to support teens in terms of placement are built around the needs of adolescent males and lack the gender-responsive programming necessary for girls. We knew we could service more girls in our existing facility.
Our philosophy is a holistic, gender-responsive approach tailored to fit each individual girl’s needs to develop her strengths, pro-social values, leadership skills and discipline in order to facilitate a successful return to her family and community. This is accomplished in tandem with the family, caseworker, probation officer, school personnel, Gwen’s Girls staff and significant others through the development and implementation of each individual’s service plan. Our program is designed to provide individual care management, supportive services, group counseling and individual and family counseling/therapy.
Gwen’s Girls provides 24-hour supervision by professionally trained staff in a structured, goal-oriented home setting for delinquent and dependent girls ages 13 to 21. The large staff-to-resident ratio allows us to provide a uniquely individualized and creative treatment program and service plan for each girl based on her assessment and needs.
Residential services for delinquent and dependent girls include:
Initial psycho-social assessment
All health screenings and health exams, including eye and dental
Individualized pathway treatment plan (a blueprint for service delivery)
Individual care manager who coordinates all aspects of treatment and intervention
Psychiatric services, including consultations and medication monitoring
Regular family engagement with program and youth
Individual and family counseling/therapy by professional Gwen’s Girls staff and/or Mercy Health Center
Group counseling (e.g., life skills, behavior modification and other specialized groups)
Education services and school-based case management with schools and GED providers
Independent living skills, including life skills, money management and securing stable housing
Extensive volunteer and mentoring program
In addition, our pregnant and parenting girls receive:
Pre- and post-natal care for mother and child, including immunizations, nutrition services and childbirth education classes, to facilitate a safe pregnancy, a healthy baby and good decisions regarding future family planning
Psycho-educational groups so that each mother understands her child’s need in terms of nurturing, development, health and nutrition and has the ability to meet them
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