A new pilot program in Montgomery County is designed to team unwed, adolescent mothers with older women who can help them adjust to motherhood and also serve as role models.
The MOMS (Mothers Offering Maternal Support) program, modeled after the PALS (Big Brothers-Big Sisters) program, should add a positive influence to the young mother's environment, a spokeswoman said.
Between 1977 and 1980, more than 500 babies were born each year in Montgomery to teen-agers 15 and older, the county Commission on Youth and Children said.
Fifteen pregnant teen-agers or new teen-age mothers will be paired with mature women with children of their own. More than 100 volunteers have applied to help the teen-agers, said Deborah Sheaffer, MOMS project coordinator. Twenty women were selected for the first three-day, nine-hour training session, which winds up today.
"We were overwhelmed by the response to our public service announcements," Sheaffer said. "We thought young mothers with children of their own would be too busy."
After training, the volunteer and the teen-ager will be paired for an 18- to 20-month period. The teen-age girl must have made a decision to become a parent. She also must be unmarried and live in Montgomery County.
The pair and their children will meet once a week for at least two hours. They can spend the time as they like, although they will be asked to discuss, in any way they choose, a monthly newsletter on child development.
Sheaffer said the two will meet over many months so that they have enough time to develop a rapport: "It can be rocky at first. Like most friendships, it's real special if you hit it off right from the start. But, more often than not, it takes a while . . . . In the PALS program, we've found that if the two stick it out, it's usually worth it . . . ."
Both the volunteers and the teen-agers also will meet once a month in separate groups to share their experiences among peers.
As yet unfunded, but being carried under the PALS grant through the county's Division on Children and Youth, it is an experimental, part-time program.
"The idea has really taken off, and has the potential for being a full-time program," said Sheaffer. "If we can prove it's a viable program, then we can seek funding, most likely from private foundations."
Although professionals who are aware of the program are enthusiastic about it, Sheaffer said, she is having trouble getting the word out, and is still seeking referrals from counselors, clergy and health professionals. A seminar, entitled "Adolescent Pregnancy: Trends for 1983," will be offered at 1 p.m. Feb. 3 at Bauer Drive Community Recreation Center. At this point, only four teen-agers are committed to join the program.
The flood of volunteer applications has one gap. "The closer we get to the girl's own background the better. But at the moment, we have no black volunteers. We're gearing up to recruit through some black women's organizations," Sheaffer said.
For information on either aspect of the program, contact the Mental Health Association of Montgomery County at 949-1255.