Mothers In Need, Need 'Mentoring Moms'

Volunteer Center of Bergen County is looking for women who can help mentor mothers in need of guidance and support.

By anyone's measure, motherhood is the most difficult job in the world, even to those who have the resources to make it easier. What if you lack those resources? Not just financial, but emotional? And what if you lack the social network of family or friends who can provide relief and guidance when you feel overwhelmed?

Enter the Volunteer Center of Bergen County and their 'Mentoring Moms' program. According to the Maureen McCormick, who helps to coordinate 'Mentoring Moms,' the program deals with many single moms who are overwhelmed by financial worries and have few family members nearby to depend upon. Oftentimes, she, or a member of her family, is facing emotional, behavioral or physical challenges on top of financial worries.

As McCormick explained, many single moms live from paycheck to paycheck; some have lost their jobs in the recession and need help navigating their way through the process of writing a resume and searching for a job.

Often, these women need help just knowing how and where to get the help they need--affordable child care, assistance with food and/or rent, basic medical care for their children.

In situations like this, not only do these mothers suffer under the weight of their circumstances, but so do their children. According to 2010 figures from the US Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, an estimated 800,000 children in the United States were found to be victims of child abuse and neglect. 

McCormick said that research has proven that parents who have support from family, friends and the community are more likely to provide safe and healthy homes for their children.

"When parents lack this support or feel isolated, they may be more likely to make poor decisions that can lead to neglect or abuse," McCormick said. 

Since 1995, 'Mentoring Moms' volunteers have supported mothers by helping them to find resources, share coping strategies that allow the mothers to parent effectively even under stress. 

Generally, families are referred to the 'Mentoring Moms' program through DYFS (Division of Youth and Family Services) or some other program. 

Joyce Baynes, a mentor who was recently appointed to the board of the Volunteer Center, has mentored the same woman for the past five years. 

Baynes, a retired school administrator who served as Superintendent of schools in both Teaneck and Englewood, wanted to remain active and continue to give back to the community upon her retirement. While reading the paper one day, she saw the listing for 'Mentoring Moms' and decided to participate in their training program.

"They're going to train me to to be a mom?" Baynes laughed remembering her initial reaction to reading about the training program.  

"I was a single mom for 30 years and they're going to train me?"

However, Baynes said that the training was essential in being able to identify certain problems.

Training consists of 15-hour training program, divided into five sessions, with ongoing support from program staff. Volunteers take workshops designed to develop listening and effective communication skills, and problem solving techniques. Guest speakers such as current mentors, mothers who have participated in the program, and social services case workers share their experiences so that new mentors have the background and knowledge to help support moms who may be single parents, or struggling with a child’s illness, or who are simply overwhelmed.

"Mentor's are there to listen," Baynes said. "Mentors guide, not instruct, the mentee to think about the situation and work together to come up with solutions to problems by providing them choices for action."

Baynes' mentee, a grandmother raising her two grandchildren on her own, reached out to Baines when she had concerns that her twelve-year-old granddaughter was beginning to make wrong choices for her life. 

Through her church, Baynes met someone who was a member of the Moose Lodge who informed her of a boarding school outside of Chicago sponsored by Moose Lodges that might accept the girl that Baines was working with.

Through that connection, Baynes was able to provide the family with an opportunity for the girl to attend the boarding school in an effort to remove her from the influences that were beginning to lure her into making the wrong choices. 

The young girl applied and was accepted into the boarding school at no cost to the family.

"This was a bright, intelligent young girl who was at risk," Baynes said. "It was over a spaghetti dinner at my church that I met someone who informed me about this boarding school," she said emphasizing the importance of connections. 

Baynes said that it is moments such as those that make being a mentor extremely rewarding--knowing that you made a potentially life-altering difference in someone's life. 

Registration is now open for 'Mentoring Moms' Fall training, which begins Monday, September 24 from 7:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.at the Volunteer Center of Bergen County, 64 Passaic Street, Hackensack, NJ. Call (201) 489-9454, ext. 123, or visit www.bergenvolunteers.org to learn how to become a Mentoring Moms volunteer.


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