Over the last 20 years, teen pregnancy rates in the United States have drastically dropped. The Center for Disease Control reports rates are down 40 percent.
However, in poor and minority communities, it remains a problem. Often, teens facing unexpected motherhood also face scorn from their peers, and in some cases, from their own families.
High school freshman Masagay Turay had hoped to play basketball or run track. Instead, the now 15-year-old, spends her afternoons balancing homework and dirty diapers.
"I just come home [to] look after him," Masagay said, bouncing her baby boy Abu on her lap.
Brittany Tobias, 19, was 17 the first time she got pregnant.
"I really got scared. What was I going to do with my life?" she recalled.
Two years later, Tobias got pregnant with baby number two, which she said was not planned.
"It was more shocking for this one," she said.
For Tobias, graduating from high school was one of the proudest days of her life.
"I just knew I had to do it. You're not going to get anywhere in life without it," she explained.
"I watched my mom. My mom dropped out when she was in 8th grade, and my mom has struggled her whole life," she explained.
"She got us what we needed, but we weren't able to do stuff that we really wanted to do and that hurt her feelings, and I didn't want that for my baby," she said.
Brittany is moving forward with her education to become a nurse.
"I want to start fresh for my family," she said.
That fresh start includes Tobias' faith. She plans to be baptized soon.
Her faith was strengthened through a Roanoke, Va., ministry called Teen MOPS, an arm of the nationally known MOPS program, or Mothers of Pre-Schoolers, offered in many churches across the country.
Teen MOPS Outreach
Tobias and Masagay attend the Teen MOPS program at Straight Street, a Christian outreach center for teens.
"It's hard being a teenager today. It's even harder being a teenage mom," Director Keith Farmer said. "So often these teenage girls are on their own trying to raise these babies, and we want to let them know that they're not alone."
Farmer leads a team of volunteers, including Dawn Haskins, who runs the Teen MOPS program and keeps in touch with up to 40 girls on a regular basis.
"Most of them are unchurched. I think they are searching. Their greatest need is spiritual, but then also the emotional needs," Haskins said.
"The support that they don't have from home or from others in their lives, they come here," she said. "They're loved, they're supported, they're unconditionally loved."
The Teen MOPS group meets every other Monday night. When the girls arrive, they sign in and are able to list any items they need like diapers, wipes, formula and maternity clothes.
Then, they eat dinner. While they eat, volunteers go into a supply cage filled almost to the ceiling with items donated by individuals and churches.
Inspired by God
After dinner, the babies go to the nursery, toddlers to the toddler room, and the teen moms gather around a stone hearth for Bible study.
"I actually don't show it when I'm there, but I'm a really emotional person. It makes me want to cry when I hear some of the people's stories," Tobias said.
"Hearing all the other girls and knowing I'm not the only one that struggles and stuff, that makes me feel good," she said. "And I think that's really nice of them to do all that for us for free."
The group has gone through one book that deals with the truths of being a teenage mother. Now they're working through a book about the lies women believe.
"My hope is they come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. I hope that we are being the hands and feet of Christ and showing them the unconditional love of Christ," Haskins said.
"That they would want that commitment in their life, they would want that relationship in their life," she added.
Tobias never heard about the Lord when she was growing up.
"When I hear different Bible stories it really does inspire me," she said. "I really believe it."
Making a Difference
The girls in the Teen MOPS program come from different backgrounds. Some have no mom or dad in the home, some come from strong Christian families, and some from international backgrounds, like Masagay who is Muslim, but still open to the message.
Keith Farmer said it would be easy to look down on these teenage mothers.
"But we're not supposed to. We need to reach out and help them to change a generational trend sometimes to make a difference," he explained. "And we're called to do that."
For Tobias, the group has made a huge difference in her life.
"I just know that it will all get better. I know He's on my side," she said. "I know it will get better."
"She's made a huge commitment for her life, but also for her one girl and also the other girl on the way to provide them with a good Christian home," Farmer added.
The ultimate goal of Teen MOPS is to meet the young women on their level and help them make a change for eternity.
And they're doing that one meal, one box of diapers, and one Bible study at a time.
--Originally aired May 16, 2011.