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Young parents come of age

This week marked a celebration of the young parents who are learning to beat life's challenges - with a little help from Red Cross.

Friday December 12, 2014

Participants receive certificates from the NSW Children's Guardian Kerryn Boland
Participants receiving their certificates from the NSW Children's Guardian, Kerryn Boland

"Me and my partner know when we need support, and we're not strong enough on our own, we can always go to Red Cross. I've learned how to break the cycle now, and live a better life. I want my daughter to grow up happy, and I'm so proud of what I've achieved so far," says Kyla, a smiling 19-year old mum who's in her first year at Parramatta's Young Parents Program (YPP).

 Kyla and the other young parents from the YPP centres in Randwick, Parramatta, Nowra and Gosford are lining up outside the centre in Randwick, some nervously straightening their hair, some giving their kids a last minute cuddle before handing them over to the Red Cross volunteer carers.  

Music blasts and they walk into the room to a standing ovation, a hundred or so friends, family, staff, volunteers and Red Cross supporters acknowledging how far they've come this year with cheers and clapping.  

Today is the annual YPP Recognition Ceremony, which honours both the young parents themselves and the volunteers who support them. A young mum called Tahlia takes to the stage, sharing a slideshow of pictures of her little boy. She tells the audience how after being  born prematurely when she was just fifteen, he was placed into foster care, and with the help of Young Parents Program that she's been able to care for him herself and help him develop into a healthy, smart and happy little boy.  

There are so many stories like this behind the happy faces at the ceremony today. As each participant comes up to the stage to receive their certificate, their achievements are proudly read out one by one. Studying Year 10. Got her HSC. Passed her driving test. Employed for two years now.  Applying to study law. Gave up smoking (big cheers always follow this one!)  

Without Red Cross' help, these proud young women and men would run the risk of poverty, homelessness, and having their children taken into care. Now in its 21st year, the Young Parents Program provides tailor-made, intensive support from dedicated Red Cross case workers and a weekly program of guidance and education.

Young parents develop the skills they need to live independently in appropriate housing, ensure the best outcomes for their children, move into employment or higher education and break the cycle of intergenerational trauma, abuse and neglect.  

As the ceremony ends, the parents spill out into the rain, laughing and hugging each other and scooping up their excited toddlers or sleeping babies. Some will be moving out of the Residential stage soon and starting life in their very own homes, with continued support through YPP's Outreach and Aftercare stages. Others will be back at TAFE or school next year, or helping their kids take their first steps and say their first words. All of them, though, will have learned to set their own goals, work through life's challenges and raise healthy, happy kids. That's something to celebrate, today and every day.