Building a Culture of Support for Pregnant and Parenting Young Women – EyesOpenIowa

eyes open iowa logo
eyes open academy logo

EyesOpenIowa (EOI) has a mission of providing comprehensive sexual health education for young people across the state of Iowa. As part of that mission, EOI has a strong commitment to supporting all youth, including young moms.

School systems may overlook or negatively characterize young moms, often without realizing it. Because of this, EOI launched an effort two years ago to equip school systems to better support and encourage young moms.

EOI has been working with seven Des Moines metro school districts throughout the past two years of this project. In the first year, EOI worked closely with districts and young moms to develop educational and awareness materials for young moms and the general student population. EOI also initiated the first website in the state dedicated entirely to pregnant young Iowans: In addition, EOI trained teachers and health educators in a comprehensive sexual health curriculum designed for young parents, which included a forum for young parents to address teachers and educators.

After the first year, EOI believed it was crucial to “go deeper” and look at the root causes of stigma directed toward young moms. Some schools are very supportive of young moms in their buildings while other schools may react negatively. In some cases, the stigma of being a young mom can be very detrimental to the point that it affects a young mother’s attendance and self-esteem.

Now in our second year, EOI is very excited to have launched a free, one-hour online training for any school personnel. The hour-long training is designed to improve and strengthen school support for young parents. The training includes segments focused on values clarification and sensitive questions. It also provides resources and information about a school’s responsibilities for young moms. Most importantly, the training includes the stories of two young moms.

EOI is able to offer the training for no cost due to the generous support of the Iowa Women’s Foundation and other local funders.

The most inspiring part of this project has been the opportunity to learn from young moms in the area. EOI conducted two large focus groups with 45 area young moms to inform the project. Two of the mothers agreed to tell their stories as part of the online training. Many moms mentioned that this was the first time they had been asked their opinion about how schools could help them.

In the online video clips, moms describe in their own words what their school experience was like. For one the experience was positive,

“It made me feel better that my teachers weren’t judging me. That they were helping me.”

 For another, the experience was more negative,

 “There were some teachers that didn’t understand and I wish they did. Like they were bashing me because I was young.”

Both moms emphasize what a difference positive feedback and support from teachers can make in their lives.

To date, project resources have reached school personnel in seven districts, 325 young moms across the districts, and 10,000 students with awareness activities.

EOI is thankful for Iowa Women’s Fund partnership as we strive to strengthen the support around young moms in Iowa.