Marci Richards saw a conflict when it came to teen mothers.
"We always try to ask people not to have abortions. But we realized that after that, there's no help for them," she said.
Richards, along with co-director Lisa Trunzo, recently started Teens TLC, or Treasuring Life with Children. Through biweekly meetings, the religious-affiliated group attempts to prepare teens for motherhood and help them finish school.
"Occasional frustration from being a mom can make ordinary people neglectful to their children. It is more challenging for teenagers because they're not mature enough, they have trouble finishing school or their families may turn their back," she said. "We want to try to give them a hand up."
In 2006, 3.65 percent of Cape Girardeau County girls aged 15 to 19 gave birth, compared to 4.56 percent statewide, according to the 2007 Missouri Kids Count report.
Christina Garcia, 17, has been attending the Teens TLC meetings since it formed about two months ago. She said the meetings helped her know what to expect during labor. Her son, Cody, is about 7 weeks old.
"I started going to meet other teens in my same position and find advice from ones that already have kids," she said. "They made me a paper about what to do if he's fussy and why he's crying."
Garcia graduated high school in California, where she was living with her grandparents. She moved to Cape Girardeau in April to live with her mother and stepfather. She plans to attend college when things settle down.
Besides preparing mothers for childbirth and child-raising, Richards hopes to help other teens finish school by providing transportation to GED classes, helping pay for books, holding study nights and holding resume or interview skill sessions.
Garcia also attends a MOPS, or Mothers of Preschoolers group. Denise Wimp, director of First Call for Help, named three other services that help teen mothers as well: the Missouri Mentoring Partnership, Building Blocks and Lutheran Family Services.
The Missouri Mentoring Partnership matches teen parents with mentor volunteers to help teens develop parenting skills, achieve educational goals and become self-reliant, according to its website, www.missourimentoring.com. Southeast Missouri Hospital runs Building Blocks, where nurses conduct prenatal visits with teens. Lutheran Family Services offer basic parenting programs.
Teens TLC meetings are held from 6 to 8 p.m. on the second and fourth Thursday of every month at the Commission Fellowship, a nondenominational church at 2711 Thomas Drive, Suite 209.
A fundraiser for the organization will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Broadway Books and Roasting Co., 605 Broadway. For a $20 suggested donation, people can receive chair, foot and hand massages from Pursley Chiropractic, eDen Spa & Salon and Time Well Spent. For more information, visit www.TeensTLC.org.
Only about three people have attended the Teens TLC meetings consistently, Richards said, but she hopes more will attend as the word gets out. "We want to show that there is God's love, and you don't have to go searching for it in a man," she said.