Fostering Community and Connection for Young Parents

By Sarah Bahn, PEPS Communications & Marketing Manager (Estimated reading time: 5 minutes) 

For young moms in Southwest King County, a PEPS Group through PEPS partner Southwest Youth and Family Services (SWYFS) brought a sense of community and connection during a major life transition. We know that good support strengthens resilience for the next milestone, challenge or change, helps create the bond between parents and babies, and shapes a baby’s healthy development. For young parents embarking on the journey of parenthood during a time when many of their peers are in a different phase of life, having a community of support with others who “get it” is even more essential.  

Through the PEPS Community Partnerships program, PEPS collaborates with local community-based organizations to offer PEPS programming in their communities. One of these partners is Southwest Youth and Family Services (SWYFS), an organization providing individualized services and support to youth and families in Southwest King County. The success of the PEPS Community Partners model relies on fostering a culture of trust and flexibility with our partners. The organizations we work with know their communities best and are often better suited to provide targeted services to their clients than PEPS would be. 

Interested in learning more about all our partnerships with community-based organizations? Read more about partnerships at PEPS.

SWYFS Young Parents PEPS Group 

The Young Parents PEPS Group was facilitated by Southwest Youth and Family Services’ Latinx Resource Specialist, Marlene Lomeli. While the group was small (just two moms in their late teens/early twenties participated), the connections and community they built were powerful. Marlene connected with the moms virtually once a week using the messaging app WhatsApp. Adapting to the moms’ hectic schedules, Marlene adjusted the format of the group to a virtual “drop-in” meeting for four hours each week for eight weeks. This allowed the moms to participate throughout the afternoon while balancing childcare and other commitments. 

Each week, Marlene came prepared with a topic from the PEPS curriculum. She would drop questions into the group chat throughout the meeting time, including resources she found online that she thought would be useful to the moms like YouTube videos and activities. When talking about facilitating such a small group, Marlene said, “I got lucky that both of them were pretty willing to open up. If I would ask them how their week was going, they were very transparent about how their week was going, their baby’s doing this now and their mom’s doing that, and they were just very honest with where they’re at at that time, which I think helped tremendously for me.” As soon as the group started, Marlene found that the moms quickly opened up and embraced the opportunity to share. Marlene and the moms connected over their shared Latinx culture and values, sharing stories about holidays and which traditions they hoped to continue with their own children.

The small group size allowed Marlene to be nimble and adjust the meeting length, topic, and questions as needed to best support the moms. 

While all new parents experience a major shift in identity, young parents in particular may be grappling with “mourning of their old life,” Marlene noted.  While many of their friends were still in school or spending time socializing, these moms experienced a drastic change in priorities and responsibilities in a short period of time. Additionally, while the moms had just become parents for the first time, they were also balancing the unique challenges of living in intergenerational households:

“Younger moms usually still live with their parents and then suddenly once they have their own child, they become caretakers of their own child and their siblings… sometimes when we talk about the caretaker role, I’ve noticed that I wasn’t just talking about their child. They have their own younger siblings that they take care of,” Marlene explained. The PEPS model is focused on building community among parents who are going through the same phase of life. Affinity-based groups like the SWYFS Young Parents group are an important way for parents to find support from peers who may have shared experiences on multiple levels.  

Interaction with PEPS 

Initially, Marlene was nervous about facilitating a PEPS Group for the first time. The PEPS Partnerships Manager, Polly Jirkovsky, helped orient her to the process and answer any questions. Marlene said that after reading through the PEPS binder provided to all PEPS Group Leaders, nearly all her questions were answered. “It felt like a cookbook,” she said. “I knew exactly what to do, but just like any recipe you can sprinkle something in… since it was my first time leading a group, I was very anxious… but once I went through that binder, it was like oh, okay this is going to be easy.” The binder offers specific questions to ask the group for each topic. Marlene also loved that the binder gave insights for leaders to have more context and help prepare for how parents might respond to certain topics. 

Looking Ahead 

After the Young Parents PEPS Group wrapped up, the two moms who participated immediately asked when the next one was starting and said they wanted to continue participating in a parent support group. Marlene is hoping to organize another PEPS Group in the coming months. She’s thinking about how to best support families in the SWYFS community — whether that means running a group in Spanish, offering different groups for first time parents and parents with multiple children, or trying out some in-person gatherings.  

SWYFS is one of many Community Partners offering PEPS Groups. Historically, PEPS has served a relatively homogenous demographic of mostly middle-upper class white families in North Seattle. In recent years, PEPS has leaned into partnerships with community-based organizations to expand our reach as part of an intentional shift to prioritize racial equity in all aspects of our work. Our partners are deeply rooted in their communities and have the cultural competency and community trust to best serve the parents that come to their organization for support. PEPS invests in partnerships to increase access to PEPS programming while honoring the knowledge and expertise of our partners. Each of our partnerships is unique and adapted to best support the parents in that specific community.  

PEPS is a nonprofit organization. We rely on donations from our Giving Community to support our work with partner organizations like Southwest Youth and Family Services to expand parent support to more communities. We invite you to invest in our work and vision of resilient families, connected communities, and equitable outcomes. You can make a donation online. Thanks for your support! 

About the Author
About the Author

Sarah Bahn (she/her) is the Communications and Marketing Manager at PEPS. She loves amplifying the incredible stories of the PEPS community through the PEPS blog, website, and social media. Sarah is passionate about the community-building power of nonprofits and loves to support our local organizations. In her free time, she enjoys taking long walks through Seattle neighborhoods and parks with a coffee in hand.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: