NGS Super Scholarship Awards — Michelle Forsyth’s story

17 Jun 2021 3 min read

Michelle Forsyth, winner of the Judges’ Choice in the 2020 NGS Super Scholarship Awards, is the Manager of the Young Parent Centre (YPC) at Port School (WA), a purpose-built facility for teenage mothers.

In November 2020, Michelle’s Scholarship Award contributed to funding the YPC and Early Learning Centre’s annual camp in Fairbridge, Pinjarra. The camp runs over 4 days and 3 nights, with staff all chipping in to help with cooking, cleaning, childminding and supporting the young mothers who attend.

At camp, the teen mums participate in team-building exercises, fun and games and take a break from parenting, while the on-site Early Learning Centre looks after their babies. Of course, it’s not all fun and games — the camp also allows the staff to observe the teen mothers’ parenting styles and social skills, and how their babies are developing.

“It is so valuable to see the young mums’ interactions with their babies and with each other and to be able to provide support with strategies and programs to support their parenting and educational needs. At least 90% of our teen mums have no family support and parent solo, which is very hard for anyone, yet alone a young girl under 18”, says Michelle.

The funds provided by Michelle’s Scholarship Award meant that there were more activities and more support staff available.

“One of the highlights was going out for dinner with the mums and bubs. Most of the teen mums haven’t been able to go out due to financial constraints, as well as not feeling comfortable going to these places being so young and with a baby — they feel judged if their child is misbehaving.”

“The girls, their babies and staff all had a great time and it was so good to be able to support the young mums and give them the opportunity to have some fun away from their babies. Even though staff didn’t get any sleep, it reminds us of the challenges these girls face and the adversity they have to overcome. Just getting to school can be problematic with a baby, lack of sleep and catching several modes of transport — and yet these girls come every day.”

Another valuable feature of the camp is that it allows Michelle to develop a good rapport and relationship with each mum and baby, away from the school environment. Teenage mothers are at high risk of dropping out of school, but the YPC gives them the chance to continue their schooling and complete their education, while their child is at the on-site Early Learning Centre. As well as the programs and support services offered by the YPC, the girls are also able to bond and develop relationships with each other at camp and support each other with their parenting and friendships. This flows onto the girls attending school regularly, because they have the support from staff and the other teen mothers.

“The Young Parent and Early Learning Centre mums and bubs camp is such a rewarding experience. While I have no sleep for three nights, it really does highlight and reminds me of the challenges that these girls face every single day.”

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