The Empowerment Challenge
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The Empowerment Challenge is a not-for-profit charity, with a focus on supporting younger mothers who have birthed their first child under the age of 26 years. Our board of directors are passionate individuals from a variety of walks of life, each bringing different skills and expertise to the Empowerment Challenge’s vision and mission.
Through research and working in the community sector we have identified that mothers with lower maternal age are often impacted by a multitude of disadvantage. It is established in the literature and within community that young parents and their children are particularly vulnerable to breaches of their rights to health, education and care, and are at higher risk of long-term disadvantage and welfare dependency (AIHW, 2017). We know that mitigating these disadvantages involves instilling and strengthening protective factors.
Protective factors are common factors that are evidenced as ‘protecting against disadvantage’ such as provisions and equality of access to supports, resources and services like counselling and therapeutic supports, personal development, mentoring, education, psychoeducation and health supports. Protective factors are also simple things like pro-social connections and the establishment of trusted and supportive relationships, we know to be evidenced as integral to mental health and wellbeing.
We aim to strengthen the social, emotional and health supports for younger mums and we have identified a way to do this that is different to what other organisations are doing. We believe in the power of connectivity and have seen that through ongoing, supportive care, improved health and wellbeing outcomes, personal development and independence, can be achieved.
Children require parents who are connected and healthy to give them a safe, attuned environment. Humans are social beings and, in unavoidable ways, connected to the tribe at large. However, for some younger mums, trusting and forging connections is hard. We acknowledge this and want to take the time to support younger mums in a genuine and relational way. This may take longer and seem slow, but we believe it is what will be the linchpin for real support and change. We hope to work with, and challenge younger mums to see their power within and believe in themselves. The old Chinese proverb, ‘Give a person fish and they have a meal for a day, teach a person to fish and they will never go hungry again’ sums up our mission perfectly.
The Empowerment Challenge aims to be a different type of organisation. We do not want to be one of the many crisis support services who are intensively supporting those who have fallen through the cracks, from one crisis to the next with only the time to ‘band aid’ problems. Whilst we acknowledge that these services are integral and in demand (thus, attract 95% of the global funding), we aim to prevent crisis occurring and want to intervene further upstream where possible.
We asked young parents what it is they need to make their lives easier and have the opportunity to thrive instead of just survive..? The answers we received were priceless:
Many young mums said they didn’t have anyone to help them with their children and oftentimes, had to ask people they didn’t always trust or want around their children to help them get out to appointments.
They said they wanted true support, not just another worker who doesn’t really get it or care, as well as easier access to services and longer-term supports.
They said that they needed to have the time to form relationships and trust anyone who they would open-up to.
They couldn’t just go to regular appointments due to anxiety and depression or fear of their partner/families, etc. 96% said they felt abandoned or let down in the last year by workers who they sought support from, leaving them more dejected than before they had reached out.
We took this feedback on board and decided to make The Empowerment Challenge fit. We decided to relax the service and not introduce strict criteria around who we support. We want voluntary access points specific for younger mums, in an informal setting, with professional support and drop-in available. Too often young mothers are expected to travel, be inflexible, and just get to appointments at designated times despite their struggles.
Our target group is younger mothers who are pregnant or who have birthed their babies under the age of 26, however, this could be someone who is older and at the right stage of change needed to be motivated.
Without a holistic, longer term service such as The Empowerment Challenge, younger mums may not have the ability to work towards positive changes and individual growth, and to break the cycle of disadvantage for themselves and their children. With the benefit of protective factors instilled in their lives, we hope that they can challenge themselves and be empowered to make positive change.
We acknowledge that the younger mum demographic is impacted by factors such as:
- A high percentage of young mums/dads have grown up in out-of-home care themselves and lack the safe, secure attachments, role models and experiences to promote parenting skills and loving relationships for their own families.
- A high percentage of younger mums have experienced trauma and adverse childhood experiences (*many of which are strong indicators for future health and wellbeing issues). Adverse childhood experiences (ACES) include abuse (physical, emotional, sexual); neglect (physical, emotional); family violence; intergenerational trauma, alcohol/substance abuse; household mental illness; separated & blended families; family members suicides/deaths.
- A high percentage of younger mums will experience mental health issues, financial stress, and social isolation.
- Children of parents with lower maternal age are identified to be more at risk specifically via biological (maternal health risk in pregnancy, infant health risk at birth and early life) and psychosocial risk (maternal stress, being born into socioeconomic disadvantaged neighbourhoods, violence, attachment issues.
- A resiliency effect was observed in women with a history of ACEs when they were buffered from experiencing high levels of social support.
(Sources: AIHW, 2017; Racine, Plamondon, Madigan, McDonald and Tough, 2018; Perry, 2002; Van der Kolk, 2012).
We took this information on board and decided to make The Empowerment Challenge fit the need:
Our Points of Difference:
- We will provide outreach supports to establish trust and relationships, which will allow us to build rapport and literally bring in those who will not walk in alone.
- Providing a safe place (a one stop hub) for the under-involved, and those with mental health issues or mistrusting of services, who would otherwise only be accessing services when in crisis. We want to break this loop and be there earlier to prevent crisis occurring.
- We will also be changing the way our service is accessed. Rather than doing it to get stuff or doing to/for people, we will encourage a partnership with shared agenda to promote skills, resources and participation (Moore,2014).
- Professional mental and physical health support will allow us to get to the core of the issues faced. Promoting awareness of the inner working models, our participants will be supported in flipping any negative, stuck patterns that can see them lost in the cycle of despair, addictions and other negative coping strategies. We do not want to be a band-aid service. We want to really help.
- Survival is a difficult place to exist. We want to take our participants from hardship to wellbeing, seeing the families we support thrive – not just survive. This will mean advocating to improve the resources around our participants (ie. housing, financial, legal, social, etc.) and helping them to overcome any adversities that may be preventing them from moving ahead, such as: family violence and substance abuse. We will work in partnership with other organisations as advocates for our participants.
- Participants in our service will not be exited when they miss their appointments and time-out of our supports (ie. 12 weeks/12 sessions). They will be supported in a longer-term capacity and have access to ongoing support if needed. Mentoring will promote role modelling and lasting effects. Building trusted relationships and connections to create a safe space for younger mums is our aim.
We are planning to be open for service in 2021…WATCH THIS SPACE!
If you know a younger mum (birthed a baby under the age of 26) who could benefit from being involved with The Empowerment Challenge please get in touch with us via email or online by the CONTACT US button.
The challenges faced by younger mums can seem immense. They are often stemming from past trauma and abuse, as well as many, present, seemingly insurmountable odds.
The Empowerment Challenge are seeking your support – your partnership to build protective factors. We would appreciate getting our mission underway and require cash donations and sponsorships from valued local businesses and community members.
Your support will assist us to provide the vital services and programs we know can make a difference in the lives of these younger mums and their families. We are very passionate about making a difference for these young families and being an agent of change. We welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss our vision and programs, as well as the chance to explain how supporting us can benefit you in return.