ROUTE 21, Bartholomew County’s program for pregnant or parenting teens, has become something of a nomad organization in recent years — forced by changing missions and economics to be in search of a home base. Hopefully, recent moves will bring stability to the organization.
For almost 40 years, dating to the early 1970s, it enjoyed a period of relative stability and independence under the name of Y-Med (Young Mothers Educational Development program). Its mission was similarly simple: helping pregnant teens or young mothers to complete high school while developing and maintaining parenting skills.
It expanded its horizons, reaching beyond the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. to include students from the Flat Rock-Hawcreek School Corp. It adopted its current name in 2010, a recognition of the need to extend its mission beyond helping teens complete high school and encouraging them in post-secondary educational efforts. The year before it had incorporated young fathers into the program.
One of the major expansions dealt with the desire of some of the organization’s leaders to extend the mission to preventing individuals from becoming parents during their teen years. Essential to that was a collaboration with the local court and probation system to bring education about unplanned pregnancy, healthy relationships and more to at-risk youths.
As the program has evolved, it has gone through a number of rocky periods.
In 2009, funding from the United Way of Bartholomew County was discontinued to the free-standing Y-Med organization. Funders were concerned about Y-Med’s financial struggles that forced the closure of its nursery and suggested the best course of action would be to incorporate the mission into another United Way agency: Childhood Connections. That Columbus child care and resource agency focused on individualized case management.
That relationship continued into last year, but the parent group lost its contract with the Indiana Association for Child Care Resource and Referral and was forced into major downsizing.
Out of that restructuring came the agreement to turn responsibility for the Route 21 program over to Human Services Inc.
The transfer appears to be a good fit, especially with Human Services’ extensive background with the Head Start program. Also reassuring is that the local United Way has pledged financial support in sustaining Route 21.
There certainly is a demonstrated need for the services that can be offered by Route 21. It currently serves 57 clients ages 16 to 18 and that is likely only a fraction of the young people who could benefit from the program that promotes self sufficiency.
Its mission has been supported by the community for more than 40 years and is one that deserves long-term stability.