Many pregnant teens find themselves homeless or living in dangerous situations, and for some of these teens a shelter for pregnant teens may be able to provide a safe environment and support as they strive to care for themselves and their babies.
Shelters for pregnant teens offer a place to live when teens are pregnant and find themselves homeless, in a dangerous environment, or in need of extra support and care. In addition to food and a place to live, pregnant teen shelters may offer a variety of services:
- Mental and emotional health counseling
- Substance abuse counseling
- Religious instruction
- Supervision by a trained and licensed staff
- Educational help
- Work and life skills training
- Parenting skills classes
- Adoption placement or counseling
- Education on avoiding another pregnancy during the teen years
- Help in locating housing after leaving the shelter
- Classes for the baby’s father on life and parenting skills
Not all shelters offer all of these services, but most offer some. Most pregnant teen shelters are run by city or state governments or by non-profit groups, especially religious organizations. The services they are able to offer, as well as the rules for living at the shelter and the criteria for admission vary by shelter.
The living situation at teen shelters is usually somewhat communal. Pregnant teen shelters may offer girls their own room or require them to share. They usually have shared spaces for eating and for activities, which gives pregnant teens a chance to make friends with others who understand their situation. The staff members usually function as surrogate parents and counselors for the girls, and may be single moms themselves.
The rules at most shelters provide a lot of structure. Some pregnant teen shelters allow girls to leave the facility during their stay while others require them to remain on the grounds. Girls may be required to follow strict health rules, though they may have to get their own medical care. This also applies to schooling. Religious homes or pregnant teen shelters usually require girls to attend services. Shelters for pregnant teens may keep their location a secret to protect pregnant teens who may be in danger from family members or the baby’s father.
The level of help provided by shelters for pregnant teens depends on the focus and the resources of the shelter. Some shelters for pregnat teens can only offer help while a girl is pregnant, while others provide continuing shelter or support for up to the first two years of the baby’s life, including ongoing counseling and education or child care. Helping the teen finish school as a mom.
Girls who seek pregnant teen shelters may come from a variety of backgrounds. Many of the teens who use shelters have a history of early teen sexual activity, and often of sexual abuse. They are almost always single. Many come from the foster care program or from low income families who cannot not or will not support them during their pregnancies. Most keep their babies rather than put them up for adoption.
Teens who go to a pregnant teen shelter may have better outcomes than those who don’t thanks to the shelter’s counseling, health, and education programs, and removing girls from dangerous situations.
Homes and shelters for pregnant teens used to be common, but there are now fewer of them, with perhaps only a couple in each state. With budget cuts, many state programs have been cut back even more. This means that teens who need a shelter may not have many options about which one they go to, and it may be hard to get in to a shelter for pregnant teens.
Teens who need a shelter while they are pregnant can talk to a doctor, counselor, social worker, or religious leader to find out about pregnant teen shelters in their area. They can also search in the phone book for shelters or for teen help hotlines. Girls who need special help, like protection from someone who wants to hurt them, may be able to get help with transportation to a particular shelter by talking to a doctor, police officer, or social worker.
Tracey Dewart and Donna Zaengle, Lamaze International’s Journal of Perinatal Education, “The Door’s Perinatal Program for Pregnant and Parenting Teens” [online]
Michael D. Clark, Cincinnati Enquirer, “Home offers refuge for pregnant teens” [online]
Edward J. Saunders, Children Today, “Residential program services pregnant teens and young mothers in Iowa – Adolescent Pregnancy Program of Central Iowa” [online]
Tovia Smith, NPR, “For Teen Moms, Just a Start” [online]