Crossroad House provides home and hope for teen moms01-06-2012
Crossroad House provides home and hope for teen momsBy Amy Forbus
As a developmental therapist, Ophelia Mosley works with children ages three and under who have disabilities. She encounters clients in all types of living situations, including children in foster care.
During one visit to a client in a foster home, she overheard a conversation about a nine-year-old pregnant girl needing placement in the foster system.
“I said, ‘You have got to have the age wrong,’” Mosley said. “But they were accurate.”
She completed her work and left the home, still upset. “I was really fussing at Jesus, just ranting and raving,” she said.
It was then she heard a clear voice say, “You do something about it.” The Holy Spirit kept whispering to her, and she knew she had to act.
An active member of Christ United Methodist Church Cabot, Mosley discerned that her calling to help young mothers wouldn’t involve founding just another facility or group home. She knew that it needed to be a real home—hers.
Mosley began putting together what would become Crossroad House. She rented a large, ranch-style home in Cabot and moved in, decorating rooms to make them comfortable and welcoming for teens and their babies. Bedrooms can accommodate up to five mother-child pairs. The house includes rooms for studying and pursuing hobbies, and a playroom dedicated to one-on-one interaction between mothers and infants.
Teens living at Crossroad House learn life skills like how to cook using simple recipes and fresh ingredients, the importance of doing well in school and bonding with their children—skills they may not pick up in other environments such as a homeless shelter.
She also recruited an executive director: her daughter, Desiree Kelly, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in human services. As part of her work with Crossroad House, Kelly presents the state-approved curriculum “Making Proud Choices,” teaching prevention of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
“My goal is to help young girls make good decisions about their life,” Kelly says. “I am a resource ready to be utilized by the community.”
Crossroad House has a highly involved, all-female board of directors, which includes a pharmacist, a police officer, a business owner and a United Methodist deaconess. Each board member uses her gifts to provide assistance for Crossroad House, often working directly with residents.
Colleen Caldwell, the deaconess on the board, was commissioned in April 2011 by the Women’s Division of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries. As director of community care ministries for Christ UMC Cabot, she has seen the congregation wrap its arms around the current residents of Crossroad House: 15-year-old Kasha and her 13-month-old daughter, Marie (names have been changed to protect privacy).
“That baby has so many aunties and uncles now,” says Caldwell, who added that the church’s eagerness to include the mother and baby is teaching the value of having a stable support system and faith life.
“We have a group of people ready to welcome girls who are new to the home and let them know they are welcome not only in Christ Church, but also in Cabot,” says the Rev. Jeff Warrick, the church’s pastor. “Kasha is becoming involved in our youth group on a weekly basis, and she’s brought a wonderful perspective to the group.”
Though Crossroad House currently has only one teen resident, they expect to receive more in 2012. In anticipation of that growth, Christ UMC has donated its church van to Crossroad House, ensuring that all of the home’s residents will be able get to church and other group activities. The church also gave Crossroad House more than $500 raised through its community fall festival.
Individuals from the church have helped with a variety of tasks, from providing diapers to installing wireless Internet access. One church member who prefers to remain anonymous builds dollhouses, and has donated two for fundraisers. This year’s dollhouse, which was given away Dec. 18, raised almost $1,200 for the cause.
“My church is wonderful,” said Mosley. Christ UMC Cabot surrounds Kasha with love and encouragement, and Mosley says it would be impossible to sustain Crossroad House without the church’s support.
Kasha says she and Marie enjoy living at Crossroad House.
“It’s better than anywhere I’ve been,” she says. “I tell Ms. Ophelia that all the time.”
Soon after she gave birth, Kasha spent a few weeks in a homeless shelter, with no clue where her child was in the foster system. Crossroad House has given her a fresh start in in caring for both herself and her daughter. She plans to be caught up in school by summer break.
“The shelter I was in before here told me, ‘You can’t do teenager stuff. You’ve got to be a mother.’ But you can be a mother too, and still have fun at the same time, as long as you’re doing your job right.”
And she does do her job right. Kasha handles all of her child-rearing duties, and she gets the kind of support that allows her to focus on her studies and participate in youth activities at Christ Church.
“She’s got a good frame of mind to raise her baby, and that’s the way it should be,” Mosley says.
For more information on Crossroad House, or to volunteer, visit crossroadhouseforgirls.org.