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9905: Children's Home Society provides help for young mothers (fwd)
From: leonie hermantin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Children's Home Society provides help for young mothers
By Rhonda J. Miller
December 5, 2001
Marie Desrosiers didn't plan to drop out of eighth grade at Omni Middle
School in Boca Raton when she was 13.
She was living with her father and relatives in cramped quarters in Delray
Beach. There were problems at home, so she went to stay with friends in Lake
Worth and didn't have a ride to school. A month went by, and her school
Then she got pregnant.
She never planned on being a teenage mother and didn't want the baby at
first. She confided in her best friend, who is three years older and thinks
it is a sin to have an abortion. Desrosiers agreed. They talked about what
the child might be like when he grew up.
That's when she began to plan her life.
"I needed help. I knew I couldn't do it by myself," said Desrosiers, who is
"I was thinking of my baby," Desrosiers said about why she went to the
Children's Home Society for assistance. The organization lined her up with
prenatal care, parent training and other community resources. Desrosiers
signed on with the Children's Home Society's new Transitions Mentoring
Program, and she was matched with mentor Marilyn Pino of Delray Beach in
Pino, 34, visited the teen at the Delray Beach home of her father, Jean
Andre Desrosiers. One afternoon before the baby's arrival, they visited a
bookstore, read baby name books and giggled.
"Marie is so positive, so upbeat, even with all she is facing," Pino said.
Pino understands some of Desrosiers' situation because of her own parents'
divorce, the shifting custody among her father, mother and grandmother, and
a generally unstable home life.
The mentor struggled in school, left home at 18 and began working.
Eventually she raised her academic level so high, she got a full scholarship
to Georgetown University, graduated with a degree in business and has earned
her living as a computer professional.
So when the optimistic teen says she wants to be a pediatrician, Pino takes
Desrosiers' goals to heart.
Pino was a recruiter of mentors for AmeriCorps, the domestic version of the
Peace Corps. She is shifting into a career in social services in January.
She visits Desrosiers weekly, with phone calls in between. She is helping
her with transportation and paperwork to get back into school, most likely
Delray Full Service Center, where on-site child care is available.
Pino drives her to doctor's appointments, goes over reading and math with
her to prepare for re-entry into the academic world, and handles whatever
details are necessary for Desrosiers to keep her life on track.
With the birth of the baby, Terrance, on Oct. 14, Desrosiers has naturally
been immersed in her new role as a mother.
"I'm very happy now that he's here," she said, picking her son up from his
baby seat at the first hungry wail.
Since the baby's arrival, Desrosiers is temporarily staying with her
boyfriend and his mother at their home in Pompano Beach.
"We have a good relationship now," Desrosiers said. "His family is there for
The baby's arrival has introduced Desrosiers to some customs of her native
Haiti, where her boyfriend also lived until three years ago. Desrosiers came
to Miami from Haiti with her father when she was 7. Her mother, four
brothers and two sisters stayed behind. One sister, who was supposed to come
with her, died before the journey. She says very little about the death,
only that her nickname, Titi, pronounced "tee tee," was given to her by that
Her boyfriend's mother guided her in following a Haitian healing custom for
new mothers. For about 20 minutes each day for three days, Desrosiers soaked
in a warm bath, her skin patted with specially chosen leaves. Following the
late morning bath, she wore long clothes to keep warm. Later in the day, she
breathed in steamy vapors brewed with the leaves of the chosen plants. For
two weeks following the ritual, she was encouraged to stay inside.
Although she doesn't understand too much about the tradition, she accepts it
as wise guidance from an elder.
"I'm very proud to be Haitian," Desrosiers said.
She's looking forward to moving back her to Delray Beach to her father's new
house and starting school after the winter holidays.
One more thing would strengthen her. "My dream is to have my mother here
beside me," she said. Desrosiers often gets a phone call from her mother on
Saturdays and they talk about being together.
A lack of money and an elderly grandmother in Haiti who needs care have kept
the two apart, but Desrosiers hopes that one day her mother will be able to
come to Florida to see her and the baby.
Debbie Kobel, the principal's secretary at Omni Middle School, said she is
pleased, but not surprised, to hear that Desrosiers is working hard to
stabilize her life and continue her education.
"You could look at her and tell that she wanted more than she was getting
out of life," Kobel said, recalling that Desrosiers came once to the Future
Educators Club at the middle school. "She melted my heart, and she had that
effect on other people, too. She has a way about her. She is a wonderful
Starting to look at her life with some perspective now, Desrosiers said she
will offer a bit of guidance when she talks to other teens.
"Don't move out," she will say. "Try to work things out with your family."
Rhonda J. Miller can be reached at email@example.com or 561-243-6605
Copyright © 2001, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
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