Nearly a dozen young woman are now receiving doula services through the Kornerstone Teen Mom Program of Barry County. Physical and emotional support services are provided before, during and after labor and delivery by trained labor companions.
"We go through labor and delivery with them as a support person who helps with comfort, position changes and ensuring teens understand the information they receive from doctors and nurses," said Lisa Miller, who serves as one of Kornerstone's two part-time doulas. "We don't leave the room. We are always with them.
"For our teen moms, that is a huge help," continued Miller. "We provide an emotional support system for them throughout the process."
In June, Kornerstone was awarded a $28,817 General Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention grant from the Children's Trust Fund (CTF), Missouri's Foundation for Child Abuse Prevention, to fund the doula services.
"The grant is designed to reduce child abuse and neglect," said Miller. "We continue to offer services until the baby reaches 6 months of age. We work on developing the bond between mom and baby and dad and baby. We also provide breastfeeding assistance.
"These services are designed to make a stronger family unit and reduce child abuse and neglect," added Miller.
In order to become trained doulas, Miller and Kornerstone's other part-time doula, Jaynee Langley, were required to read several books, take part in a three-day training workshop, participate in breastfeeding workshops and attend child birth classes. The training is used to guide the expectant teens through the labor and delivery process.
"I recently had a first-hand experience in how important the emotional support system we provide is these teens," said Langley. "One of Lisa's girls, who I had only met twice, went into labor. Lisa was sick and not able to attend the birth so she called me and asked if I would go.
"I called the girl and asked if she would be comfortable with me being there and she all but begged me to come even though she didn't know me well," continued Langley. "When I got there she was in a state of panic, but the moment I walked in the door, I could physically see my effect on her. That emotional and physical support system went to work by her just having me in the room."
Miller shared a similar story where she arrived in a labor and delivery room to find an expectant teen in a state of panic. She quickly began leading the teen through breathing exercises and instantly saw the panic disappear.
"The nurse said, 'I'm so glad you're here,'" said Miller. "I was able to help the teen remember the measures we had learned to help her remain calm. Having a trained person there is a big comfort and help for these teens when they are feeling out of control."
In addition to providing doula services, Miller and Langley continue to offer each teen enrolled in the program advocacy services, transportation to doctor's appointments, education and resources. Kornerstone also offers Family Nights for families participating in the Teen Moms Program.
Teens enrolled in the program are from across Barry County. The program currently serves 11 teens.
Kornerstone's Teen Moms Program was founded in Shell Knob nearly seven years ago. The program helps area teens receive prenatal care and parenting training and encourages students to continue their education. Some choose to pursue a GED and others take part in college courses after graduating high school.
The CTF grant that funds Kornerstone's Teen Moms Program is a five-year renewable grant. Miller said that she and Langley are hopeful that the grant will be renewed in June.
In addition to the CTF grant, Kornerstone's Teen Moms Program receives funding through a $15,000 Mercy Caritas grant from the Sisters of Mercy Health System, monthly support from the Thrifty Closet in Shell Knob and numerous individuals and organizations.
"We are very excited," said Lisa. "So far this year, we only have one expectant teen at the Monett School District and no new pregnancies in any of the other schools. That is awesome."
Marlene Whitham, who previously served as Kornerstone's full-time director, now coordinates an abstinence program through Kornerstone's contract with Missouri State University.
"Kornerstone assists in providing abstinence education in local schools," said Whitham. "Abstinence education classes were offered to seventh, eighth and ninth graders in Monett last spring. We plan to offer those classes again this year."
Whitham is also working toward expanding the abstinence education program to the Cassville and Southwest school districts this year. The program is funded through a grant from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and administered by Missouri State University.
"The curriculum is called Choosing The Best," said Whitham. "It is a nation wide curriculum on abstinence education designed to change young people's views and beliefs about abstinence."
Individuals who teach the abstinence education classes must receive training through Choosing The Best curriculum instructors. An instructor from Georgia will provide a training session in Monett on Jan. 31.
For more information, to make a referral, to support the Kornerstone Teen Moms Program of Barry County or to serve as a Kornerstone Board member call 417-858-2887 or visit kornerstoneinc.org.