It takes a whole village to raise a child” is a Nigerian proverb that has become part of current parenting vocabulary. Faith-based communities come together to support their young families with older congregation members offering mentorship, advice, sometimes even childcare. In close-knit families, older members come alongside new parents with meals and other material supports, childcare, a listening ear and helpful gestures. What happens when a new mother does not have a village?
It is the hope of our diocese that Elizabeth House and its partner agencies would be that village. In 2015, seven new mothers became residents at Elizabeth House. This diocesan program supports at-risk youth who choose to carry their babies to term. All of these young women chose to parent their babies. Parenting a new baby is a daunting concept even for the most prepared new mother who have a supportive spouse and family. When that precious baby is born into a challenging situation, daunting does not even begin to cover it. However, Elizabeth House works with a group of partner agencies that bring expertise, support and education to our residents to ensure that their journey to independence is not made alone.
Catholic Family Services, Calgary Family Services, the Healthy Babies Network, The Alex, Women in Need Society (WINS) and the Calgary Food Bank, are just a few of the agencies networked with Elizabeth House. Last year, some residents participated in Motherhood Matters at Catholic Family Services. The Louise Dean Centre provided a supportive learning environment to residents continuing their high school education and made sure that Elizabeth House mothers were always invited to their Family Fun Nights. The Calgary Food Bank provided groceries for the program. Visitation and support at Elizabeth House from the Calgary Healthy Families Program (for interested residents) helps to reduce risk factors and increase the new family’s capacity for a safe and nurturing environment.
The staff and volunteers at Elizabeth House work to create a loving, supportive, home-like environment for their residents, knowing that these young moms will not be there forever. This is why it is vital that residents also have solid relationships outside of the home with community supports that will enable them to have continued personal and parenting success. These community partners work with Elizabeth House staff to build and create that critical village.
Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” [Matt 19:14]. These smallest of children and their mothers are dearly loved by our Lord. Creating these supports for them is another way we can express His love in a tangible way. To learn more about the village of support Elizabeth House is building, visit us on the Internet at www.elizabethhousecalgary.ca.