When Charlene Ford’s daughter Destiny was rushed to intensive care shortly after her birth, 20-year-old Ford didn’t have close family to turn to.
Thanks to a referral from the hospital, Ford, a single parent, found support in One Hope United.
The Illinois-based ABHCM member serves families like Ford’s through its Wings program, a free service that provides resources to new and expecting parents. Most parents involved in the program are between 16 and 23 years old.
It was through the Wings program that Ford, now 23, first met Franciene Williams, a family support worker for One Hope United.
“I grew a great relationship with her,” says Ford, who welcomed her third child, Angel, in November. “She has the best information and always checks to see how the baby is doing. She makes sure I’m OK. It makes a big impact.”
In addition to visiting Ford’s home regularly and accompanying her to doctor appointments, Williams guides the kids through educational activities like coloring. She says early learning is a key component of the program.
“We focus on educating parents about how to interact with their child,” Williams says. “We remind parents that they are their child’s first teacher.”
For more information about One Hope United's Wings program in Cook county, call 312-949-5590. In Lake county, please call 847-245-6800.
Williams also encouraged Ford to pursue her own education. Since joining the program three years ago, Ford graduated from high school and entered community college with a dream to pursue a career in criminal justice.
“We’re all very proud of her,” Williams says. “She’s doing very well.”
For Williams, the purpose of the program is to help parents develop such goals and equip them with the confidence and resources to excel on their own.
“We give them the tools they need to be successful and independent parents,” Williams says. “We want to give them the tools so that they don’t need us.”
One Hope United offers a variety of other services designed to support children and strengthen families, such as adoption work, foster care, counseling, youth outreach, therapeutic residential care and early childhood education.
As Ford’s family grows, she’s thankful she has someone talk to in times of crisis and in moments of celebration like with the recent arrival of her third child.
“It can be really stressful being a single parent,” Ford says. “I know now that there’s someone I can trust. It really means a lot to me.”