A parenting conference Friday morning in Wilmington focused on needs specific to young moms under the age of 22.
Wilmington mom and resident Jackeline Martinez spoke; she was 21 when she had her first child.
“You know – everyone thinks, you’re 21, you’ve got it all together, you’re a grown up now, you’re supposed to know everything," Martinez said. "No – having a baby, you could be 40, you could be 17, you could be any age and you’re never prepared for it.”
When she got pregnant with her second, she moved to Delaware. While attending a school event for her first child – she heard about the Parents as Teachers program.
“You know, at first I was like – what is this Parents as Teachers? I’m thinking somebody’s just gonna come, throw some books on the table and say ok let’s start reading…no.”
As part of the program, certified parent educators come to the homes of parents with children under the age of five once or twice a month.
“When my mentor – when Ms. Kimberley came in - I was pregnant with my third child, I’m living with my in-laws, I didn’t really have a job and I wanted to go back to school, dad didn’t have a job – it was just so much," Martinez said.
Martinez says her mentor helped her through a lot, by focusing on Jackeline’s well-being as well as that of her kids.
“So when she starts asking ‘are you ok’ everything just started coming down, because I’ve been holding it in for so long. I had to get myself together so I can be there for my kids," Martinez.
Jackeline, now 28, married the father of her children last month, and is a store manager in Wilmington.
Many parent educators like Alethea Smith-Tucker started out as Parents as Teachers clients. Smith-Tucker’s own program mentor recommended her for a parent educator position last summer, and she says it’s been a tremendously rewarding experience.
“And knowing that 90% of the brain is developed by the age of 5 was striking," Smith-Tucker said. "So that’s a precious time. And I knew that the other parents were like myself looking for those resources.”
Smith-Tucker works with six families on home visits that incorporate an activity for the kids, parent-centered information, goal-setting and parent development.
Around 50 parent educators are employed in Delaware – working with around 900 families across the state, 500 in New Castle County.
The organization itself has been in the First State for 30 years.