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9905: Children's Home Society provides help for young mothers (fwd)

From: leonie hermantin <lhermantin@hotmail.com>

Children's Home Society provides help for young mothers
By Rhonda J. Miller
Staff Writer

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 
routine evaporated.

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 
now 15.

"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 rjmiller@sun-sentinel.com or 561-243-6605
Copyright © 2001, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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