Are teen pregnancies on the rise in Washtenaw County? Christina Rivest, director of Father Patrick Jackson House at Main and Pauline, thinks so. Over the last four years she’s seen Father Pat’s, the area’s only residential program for pregnant and parenting teens, go from no waiting list to a full house of five with twelve girls waiting to get in. Another disturbing trend: When the program launched in 1983, its residents were there in large part because of pressure from embarrassed families and from schools who wanted to keep teenage pregnancy out of sight and mind. Today’s pregnant teens, however, are likely to be in dire financial straits. “We’ve been seeing more and more situations where the entire family is homeless,” Rivest says, “and a growing number of clients who come to us looking for shelter because where they’re living isn’t safe.”
Father Pat’s program, which includes parenting classes and requires continued education and employment of its residents, is geared toward teens ages fifteen to nineteen. Disturbingly, though, Rivest says she and her staff have recently seen “a little bit of a bloom of eighth-graders.” Because the program requires so much independence, they have chosen not to accept those youngest applicants. Instead, they work with parents or guardians to get them more support at home.