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Agency gets $3.6M to help young parents in Lawrence-Haverhill region

Eagle-Tribune - 1/26/2021

Jan. 26—LAWRENCE — Raising a child can be tough at any age, but when mom or dad is a young adult, parenting can have added pressure. Lawrence-based Family Services of the Merrimack Valley hopes to help young parents through new grants that will fund parenting and relationship programs.

The nonprofit recently received $3.6 million from the federal government as part of a five-year program from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Lori Howe, chief operating officer of Family Services, said the agency plans to use the money to expand its existing "strengthening couples" program that offers a 14-hour relationship education curriculum to primarily young, low-income Latino couples with children.

With a goal of serving 400 couples over five years, the program's goal is to help children as well as their parents, Howe said. The organization serves the entire Essex County, but primarily helps families in Lawrence and Haverhill.

"The goal of that program is to help couples learn skills to have a strong, healthy supportive relationship so they're able to raise their children in a home that doesn't have a lot of conflict and has economic stability," Howe said. "The target population is the children. We hope the outcomes are positive for children, and we do it by working with couples to get a stronger relationship together."

In addition to suggesting household management tips and conflict resolution strategies, Family Services staff members partner with Lawrence CommunityWorks to offer financial coaching.

Another Family Services program receiving a financial boost is its young parenting program, which supports people 12 to 24 years old. Howe said the state Department of Public Health provided $275,000 to supplement ongoing programming. All courses are voluntary and most participants are referred from a school or other agency, she said.

"We help young parents navigate adolescence for themselves while adjusting to their new lives as parents," Howe said. "Staff will meet with the parent, identify some goals and work with them on pursuing them. Getting a driver's license is an example, because that's something a lot of teens want to pursue. We'll help them figure out a driving school, how to arrange for child care to go to driver's ed when they need to. A lot of things that a lot of young people take for granted become a lot more complex when you have a child."

Co-parenting methods and the role of the dad in a child's life are also taught in all Family Services programs, Howe said.

"What our staff do that is probably most impactful is serve as mentors to navigate a whole host of challenging circumstances," she said.

Spots remain available for the "strengthening couples" program, Howe said, with the course expected to begin in the spring. For more information, call 978-327-6600 or go to


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