Lydea’s alarm goes off and she rises. It will be a long day. Her four-year-old daughter Lillyian stirs to her mom’s soft kisses on her cheek. Care House has been their home for the past three years.
“My teenage life has not been normal,” 19-year-old Lydea confesses. “That’s okay, too. I made decisions, and despite my circumstances, I take responsibility. I’m a mom. That’s what I want to be.”
Lillyian is dressed, has had breakfast, and is abuzz about day school. A new day begins.
It was scary when Lydea learned she was pregnant. “I didn’t know if I could do it. I didn’t know if I could give Lillyian everything she needed, but I knew I couldn’t give her up.”
At fourteen, Lydea was placed into North Carolina’s Department of Social Services (DSS) care and removed from her mother’s home. She remembers DSS being a part of her life since she was a young child.
“I grew up with drugs always being there in our home,” she says. “Mom was a substance abuser. My parents produced and sold meth. My dad passed away when I was six.”
Lydea cared for her mom most days. No one else was there. If she and her younger sister were to eat, meals had to be prepared. Clothes needed to be washed and if there was any cleaning done in the home, Lydea had to do it.
“My childhood was tough,” she asserts. “I learned to survive out of necessity, but I also learned that I could tackle things others could not –– really hard things. It’s now my desire to take care of Lillyian and keep her safe, no matter the obstacles. Care House is helping me.”
Care House provides residential services to teenage mothers. The home’s staff members help teenage, single mothers learn parenting and living skills while being with their babies. Supportive relationships enhance mother and child bonding while moms learn skills to assist in the child’s day-to-day care. Twenty-four hour group care and on-site day care for babies allows for up to four mothers to continue with school, work part time, and plan for their futures.
“I’m striving to be the best mommy, but Lillyian has been such a help to me,” Lydea says. “Being her mom has been stabilizing to me and my world. Her unconditional love can stop me in my tracks sometimes –– I just want to give her the best life that I can.”
Lydea completed her high school requirements last fall and graduated in January –– she will take part in her high school’s graduation ceremony in June. In the meantime, she has been attending Caldwell Community College beginning her core academic subjects by taking an English class.
“I’m a good student,” Lydea says. “School was always an escape for me –– from life at home and everything that swirled around the chaos there.”
Last summer, she attended the community college every weekday from June until August to acquire her CNA (certified nursing assistant) certificate. After completing a two-year program at the community college, she plans to transfer to a four-year school to become a Registered Nurse.
“I love working around people and helping them,” Lydea says. “I learned how to take care of people in a lot of different circumstance growing up. Being a nurse is a job I feel called to do.”
Lydea has worked at a local fast food restaurant for the last two years. She has her own car and is learning to budget and take care of her personal finances.
Without Care House, Lydea says she would be alone. “It can be hard for others to understand. Most people have a family, a safety net, to be there for them. Care House is the only net Lillyian and I have.”
The support system Care House offers teen moms is essential to their success. Not only do staff members provide a safe, nurturing environment, they form attachments to the moms and babies. They encourage as well as hold the moms accountable. They work diligently helping each mother reach her goals.
“Lillyian and I feel secure at Care House,” Lydea says. “They help every mom and baby feel loved. I’ve enjoyed being with the other moms and their children. But it’s hard when they leave. I’ve seen moms come and go and miss them when they leave. We stay in touch though.”
Care House staff, moms and babies attend nearby Lower Creek Baptist Church and go to services on Sunday and attend Wednesday evening service.
“Everyone at church loves Lillyian,” Lydea says. “That means so much to me. She loves going to church. People are there looking for her and always make her feel welcome. What more could a mom ask for.”
Lower Creek church members help the moms and children in numerous ways. Members have come to understand that as single moms, the young families can’t always participate at the church, so they come to Care House and do things with the moms and children.
“I’ve grown in my relationship with God,” Lydea confides. “What I’m experiencing at Care House, and through our church, has helped me feel hopeful about my future. It’s been a plus in my life.”
When Lydea and Lillyian first arrived, the plan was to be at Care House a few months; it’s now been three years. Lillyian was an infant, and now she talks, runs, plays, and hugs. Care House has been all she has known.
“They’re family now,” Lydea says, “To have people who didn’t even know who we were, and then have them reach out to help us, it’s almost overwhelming. We love them, and I’m so very thankful.”
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