Twenty-five-year old Brittany Jenkins credits one particular non-profit, charitable organization for being there for her through the good times and the bad
Choices for Youth (CFY) provides housing and lifestyle development support to at-risk and homeless youth in the province.
The community-based organization offers innovative programs and social enterprises that help young people secure stable housing, education and employment while fostering independence and promoting mental and physical health.
Brittany Jenkins is the mother of an adorable, blonde haired, blue-eyed one-year-old boy named Lincoln. During an interview at CFY in St. John’s, the baby sat contentedly, strapped securely in his seat, while his mother talked openly and honestly about her life.
Jenkins lived on Bell Island during her younger years. “I got in a lot of trouble as a youth. I came over here (to the St. John’s area) to try to get away from that.”
It was during her time living in a women’s shelter in St. John’s that she was introduced to CFY program and services. “Anything you need help with, they can connect you with,” she said.
Jenkins said staff at CFY helped her with everything from getting a doctor’s appointment to supporting her through the youth court system.
Jenkins got pregnant while still in her teens and going through a very difficult time. The child is not in her care and has been adopted. CYF supported her every step of the way and continues to do so today, she said.
One of the main programs she’s currently involved with at CFY is Momma Moments. The weekly program is offered to young mothers and pregnant moms.
The focus of the program is to provide a safe place for both child and mother to come and be socially involved with other young moms and children.
The program offers the mothers and mothers-to-be a venue to talk about the challenges as well as the positive things that have happened during the week.
Momma Moments also helps with social barriers such as isolation, housing applications and letters of support, completing school applications, and referring the young mothers to other community-based supportive programs aimed at helping them move forward with their lives. Jenkins said she looks forward to her Momma Moments program, not only for herself but for Lincoln.
“On Saturday, I come (to the program). They have child minders who take Lincoln in the other room to play with all the babies. It’s a break for Lincoln because he’s with me 24-7. And it’s a break for me. They cook us a meal and we talk about our week,” Jenkins said.
The Momma Moments program is held at CFY but also takes the mother and babies out into the community, Jenkins said. They’ve had numerous outings, she said, including an overnight camping trip.
How important is CFY in Jenkins’s life? “I probably wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for Momma Moments and for Choices. They provide so much support in so many areas: housing, financial and just to check in with you to see how you’re doing.”
Great for the Children
Jenkins is in a relationship with the baby’s father, Justin Owens. Owens’s parents are also very involved in Lincoln’s life and are a great support to her and her baby, she said.
Raven Okanee, Jenkins’s support worker at CFY, said there are currently 68 mothers enrolled in the Momma Moments program, with plans underway to expand the program.
“Brittany is a very engaging mom; a very good mom. She is always there to offer support to the other moms,” Okanee said.
The program is also great for the children, Okanee said, and it’s wonderful to see them interacting with each other. “They recognize each other and look forward to seeing each other every week,” she said.
Like any loving mother, Jenkins has many hopes and dreams for her son. “I want to give him the best life possible… a life I couldn’t give my daughter,” she said.
Jenkins has her high school diploma. Her goal now is to pursue post-secondary education, likely in the trades.
She said she agreed to do the interview with The Herald to help get the word out on just how supportive CFY is to young people in this province and to highlight how much the Momma Moments program has helped her over the past year. “They do so much for us. I just wanted to do this little thing for them,” she said.