Out on a limb
By NATALIE PEUTnataliep@gladstoneobserver.com.au
KELLY Keating is just one of many of Gladstone's young mums who stands to lose her local support network.
Despite statistics that reveal Gladstone teenagers are three times more likely to fall pregnant than the national average, a lack of funding threatens to close down the Great Young Mother Support Group (GYMS).
Earlier this week The Observer reported that Gladstone women aged 16 to 22 years were far more likely to fall pregnant than women the same age across Australia.
For Kelly and the other young mums in the region, GYMS provides a vital support network of experienced women and qualified midwives.
The program, which is run by the Women's Health Centre, will cease by the end of June if funding can't be found, leaving mothers such as Kelly out on a limb.
Kelly joined the group when she was eight months into her pregnancy, and since then has found the group "fantastic''.
She said she didn't have much family in town, and the support group was excellent because it helped her with some of the problems she was facing.
Midwife and GYMS facilitator Louise Wightman said the group required $50,000 from various businesses to keep the group as well as one-on-one counselling and the Core of Life program going.
"These programs support and are an extremely important part of some young parents' lives, because it enables them to gain support without being judged,'' Louise said.
"The support group allows young mothers and mothers-to-be to come to a group where they have the opportunity to bring forward issues without being judged, while also being given the opportunity for one-on-one counselling.''
Louise said the group had put together a number of proposals for funding, however they had not yet received any replies. "We only have until June 30 to come up with the funding, or programs like this ... will not exist at the centre,'' she said.
Another attendee, Carla Schuh, said the GYMS was a place for relaxation and a break away from the everyday duties of life.
"If Gladstone young mothers are three times the national average, where is the assistance?'' she said.
"With the growing awareness of young mothers in Gladstone, the need for support is truly at an alltime high.
"Without social supportive groups many of us would feel lost and very alone.