I was interviewing a high school junior, Charease Jones, a mother of a 3-year-old who is living with grandparents. How does a 13-year-old get pregnant in an age when the teen pregnancy rate is near an all-time low, I wanted to ask. But such a question seemed four years too late. Naive, even.
That 16-year-old is raising a daughter who is facing a litany of odds that suggest long-term poverty or teenage motherhood are all-too-real possibilities without significant intervention. That’s where programs such as Miss Ruby’s Kids step in.
The program was begun about 1½ years ago to carry on the legacy of Ruby Forsythe, who along with her husband for 55 years operated a one-room school in Pawleys Island, S.C., for black children. It was one of the nation’s last such schools.
Miss Ruby’s Kids is part of the 39-year-old national Parent-Child Home Program, which sends retired teachers and other volunteers into the homes of “families sort of in crisis,” said Jo Fortuna, resource coordinator for Miss Ruby’s Kids.
From the age of 2 to 4, the children are given educational toys and books, and are read to twice a week during 30-minute sessions. But more important, the program is designed to teach the parents and provide a bridge until the child reaches an age when formal education is available. “The object is to get the parent and the child talking, get the parent confident that they can be their child’s first, best teacher,” Fortuna said.
It’s working for Charease, who plans to enter the Navy after high school and become a pediatrician. She says 3-year-old Nygere now wakes her up at night asking to be read a book.
We may argue over the effectiveness of standardized testing and school rankings, or rail against so-called failing schools, but we know much of that failure begins in the home.
Miss Ruby’s Kids provides a stopgap for children born into situations created by bad decisions or unfortunate circumstances.
The program recognizes that the role model in the home is more important than the role model on TV.
It’s a reminder that, although we must continue efforts to reduce the number of children born into such situations, we shouldn’t forget about those who already are there.
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