VB Gives Back

#VBGIVESBACK: Danika Charity

August 1, 2016

We are honored to support Alliance of Moms as part of our ongoing #VBGIVESBACK program and will be donating $10 of every VeronicaBeard.com order in August to the cause. Learn more about Alliance of Moms and Executive Director of Programs and Co-Founder Danika Charity in the Q&A below.
Danika Charity saw firsthand the struggles a teen parent faces. Her mother had her at a young age and she lived in 19 different places before she was five years old. It was this experience that motivated her, along with four other mothers, to break the cycle of babies born to teens in foster care by founding Alliance of Moms. With 75% of girls in foster care pregnant by the age of 21, the Alliance of Moms works with young parents in Los Angeles to provide support, education and mentoring through a variety of workshops and events.

Where did the idea for Alliance of Moms come from?

The five founders were in a mommy and me group together when our babies were just a few months old. We learned about the Alliance for Children’s Rights and their Pregnant and Parenting Teen program through one of our founders, Yasmine. Having initially bonded over all the challenges we faced as new parents we knew that we had to find a way to rally our friends and resources behind these teen moms who faced the same challenges without the resources or support.
 

Why is it important to provide this support to young girls and women in the foster care system?

75% of girls in foster care are pregnant by the age of 21 and chances are 40% of their children will end up entering the foster care system in the first years of life. Like most of the mothers you know, these girls really want the best for their kids; but not having had adequate role models or the support they need, breaking this cycle is not an easy feat. If we can provide them with this supportive community and some of the resources that have been afforded us, I know we can have a lasting impact on so many of their lives.


“I watched my mom fight hard to make sure my brother and I had a different life than her own and I know that’s why I’m doing what I am today.”


Alliance of Moms Founders Kelly Zajfen, Yasmine Delawari Johnson, Emily Lynch, Jules Leyser and Danika Charity.


What was life like for you growing up and how did your experience having a single teenage mother impact your views of motherhood and influence your work with Alliance of Moms?


My mother was 1 of 7, 5 of whom were teenage moms. I remember life being pretty crazy growing up. There were always lots of people around, we moved constantly. I lived in over 19 places by the time I was 5 years old. It wasn’t until I moved away from home at 16 that I realized that maybe this wasn't so normal. I got to see the breaking of a cycle first hand. I watched my mom fight hard to make sure my brother and I had a different life than her own and I know that’s why I’m doing what I am today.


Tell us more about your "mothership" organization the Alliance for Children’s Rights and how you work together.

Alliance of Moms is an auxiliary of the Alliance for Children’s Rights. The Alliance for Children’s Rights is an incredible LA based non-profit that advocates for children and youth in foster care. Together we’re launching the Healthy Teen Families Program where pregnant and parenting teens will be offered comprehensive wrap around services ranging from legal advocacy, educational and housing support to doulas services, parenting education and mentoring.


What types of resources does Alliance of Moms provide young parents?

We offer Raising Foodies, a healthy cooking class at a local group home, Mama + Babe classes in partnership with Loom where we cover topics ranging from infant massage to prenatal self-care to infant feeding. Our flagship event Raising Baby, which is coming up in September, brings 100 pregnant and parenting foster youth and their children together to participate in a day of parenting workshops focused primarily on early brain development. We bring in experts to lead the workshops and Alliance of Moms member volunteers provide childcare so young parents can focus on the workshops. We’re also developing a mentoring program which will partner AOM members with pregnant and parenting foster youth.

Tell us more about the Raising Baby workshops, what do these focus on?

We now know that 80% of the brain is formed by the age of 3 and that by that age children from low income families also hear 30 million fewer words than those from more advantaged backgrounds. These workshops focus on sleep and early attachment, talking, reading and singing to your baby and the role of music in early brain development.


What have you learned about motherhood from the young parents you’ve worked with through Alliance of Moms?

I recently sat in a room of pregnant teens as we talked about self-care, what it is and why it’s important. It’s so rare for them to sit around and talk about pregnancy and parenting with their peers. The support and encouragement they offer each other in these moments is so inspiring. They really rally around each other and cheer each other on. We can all learn something from these girls. As moms it’s our responsibility to support other moms, to build each other up and support each other no matter what we are going through or where we have come from.

 

What are your hopes for the future of Alliance of Moms?

I hope that awareness continues to be raised for this very vulnerable population and that we will continue to expand our programs so that all pregnant and parenting foster youth in LA are able to access the support offered by our incredible members and network of experts.
 

Describe motherhood in three words:

Everything. Always. Forever


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