For years, Janell Rottier has been a supporter of pro-life ministries, so when she was flipping through an issue of MomSense magazine, an mention of a support group for teenaged moms gave her pause.
“I had worked at a women’s center as a (pro-life) advocate, and when girls came in, I encouraged them but I didn’t have anything to give them,” she said. “It tugged at my heart. If I think they should keep their children, I should help them take the next step after they do.”
The magazine’s mention of the Teen MOPS group gave her that push, and after talking with her pastor, she and two friends -- Angela Robbins and Vicky Colbert -- began their own Teen MOPS group a few years ago.
The group now has regular monthly meetings open to any woman aged 22 or younger who has children. They also have seven young women they mentor one-on-one, with a waiting list of young mothers who would like to be mentored.
Rottier said she and the other mentors quickly realized the group was going to be more than just a social activity.
“They came to us with real life issues, like, my boyfriend is beating me or my Mom is kicking me out,” she said. “We decided to mentor a smaller number of girls so we could really focus on them. We want to show them a healthy love, one that doesn’t hurt them or require anything in return.”
Although several area churches have MOPS -- Mothers Of Preschoolers -- groups, Rottier said the Teen MOPS group hosted by First Christian Reformed Church of Crown Point is the only one in the area designed for teen mothers.
And while most MOPS groups focus on making friends and giving women two hours of “mommy time,” this Teen MOPS group aims to not only provide friendships, but also help the young women move forward with their lives.
The mentors help their young mothers make short and long-term goals, and help them focus on finance and budgets.
“We talk about goals for three, six, nine and 12 months time frames, and we talk about jobs and what steps you need to do to get them,” she said. “Our goal is to get them to be independent, functioning adults in the community.”
For Julia Mauratic, the Teen MOPS group members have given her a tremendous amount of support as she raises her son, Jason, who is now 15 months old.
She got pregnant at 16, and gave birth just before she turned 17. Now 18, she credits the mentor moms with helping her learn about budgets and finance. She also enjoys the Bible discussions and the support and encouragement between the mentor moms and the teen moms.
“People bash teen moms, and are really critical,” Mauratic said. “Just because we had our kids young doesn’t mean we are bad mothers.”
Mauratic loves every minute she spends with the MOPS group.
“We’re one big family,” she said. “It’s really great.”
Rottier said getting the group up and running, as well as dealing with some of the issues the young women present, hasn’t always been easy.
“It’s not always smooth sailing, but that’s what a family is like sometimes,” she said. “We truly love these girls and want to guide them.”
The group has been a joy for Rottier, who has four children of her own.
“I’m always telling my children to be kind, and put their faith into action,” she said. “But if I keep telling them and don’t show them, I feel like a hypocrite. I really feel called to these girls and to this ministry, and to make an impact in their lives. I hope at some point, at least one person can say, ‘I saw Christ in her.’”
Rottier said she gets as much out of the group as she puts into it.
“I think God has blessed us with these girls, they are my joy,” she said. “I love them and I feel blessed and honored they have allowed us into their lives.”