Wednesday, June 06, 2012

an update: harbor house

As for ourselves, yes, we must be meek, 
bear injustice, malice, rash judgment. 
We must turn the other cheek, give up our cloak, 
go a second mile. 
~Dorothy Day~

We've alluded to changes being made at the Harbor House.  We're both happy and sad to be making the changes.  We are sitting in an uncomfortable place lately - it is a place where we know changes need to be made and new things need to be tried - but change is painful and messy and we're humans, always reticent to deal with pain and mess. 

While attempting to support and help teen moms, we have successfully done that in a few areas. We've seen 15 to 19 year old brand new mothers choose to nurse and bond to their new babies. We've seen them choose to parent their babies themselves rather than passing baby off to an aunt or grandmother or orphanage. We've seen some personal growth and in some instances life skills are successfully being developed. We've been able to model conflict resolution, forgiveness, and grace along with the harder lessons of cause and effect and consequences. 

We have also probably played a part in hurting them in that we have provided things that are not going to be sustainable once they leave the Harbor House and reintegrate. Things like three or more meals a day, electricity almost around the clock thanks to batteries and inverter, toiletries, clothing, fans, a television, refrigerator, etc. etc.  We've made some judgement errors when it comes to how we set up their infrastructure of the house and now as we begin to figure out how to transition them out we are realizing we have made this part harder. We've failed in this aspect.  

Troy and all of us have been praying and thinking a lot about the Harbor House.  It is likely that we'll graduate the current seven girls in mid July and help them get settled with family members where possible. You may recall that we originally planned for the program to be two years long. Each of the seven young women have extended family they can return to; our hope and desire is to find a way to stay in close contact and relationship during this next phase. 

15 months ago we said this:  "The success of Harbor House will be hard to quantify.  It is not as flashy and easy to sell as a lot of programs in Haiti. The things we are attempting to impart are hard to measure."

Still true.

Based on what we've learned in the last 17 months, we'll change the length of the program and readjust our goals.  For the new young women entering after August, the program will likely become about a 9 month program instead.  In some instances young women may stay longer and in some instances they may be ready to leave sooner than that. 

Young women will enter the house while pregnant and determined to be high risk. The Prenatal program of 40 women is consistently serving about 25% first-time teen moms. While serving the young women in the Prenatal program we're given a unique opportunity to peer into their lives and identify situations that are grave.  The Prenatal program will continue to "feed" into the Harbor House program. The new mother will stay and be supported during the most critical first six months. 

The changes will be made in an effort to improve the reintegration process and make their reality while living at Harbor House a lot less cushy. (Unconditional love and support still continually offered, just not in the form of electricity and fans.)

If the end goal is emancipation (and it is) we've got to do everything we can to make that possible/probable.

We want to be honest about how lofty goals don't always equal lofty outcomes. The two year program we imagined is no longer seeming like the best idea. When we identify that something isn't working, we're open to changing our course.  

There is a difficult line to walk when dealing with reintegrating people into the normal life available to them  after having provided a better life for an extended time period.  The part where you transition someone back into "real life" is not so cut and dried. While we begin to integrate new ideas and concepts and plans at the Harbor House - while we plan to transition seven young women out and change the length of the program - we would VERY MUCH appreciate it if you'd pray for the choices to be wise ones, and for the coming changes to be as minimally painful as possible for everyone involved. 

The names of the young women (and their babies) that will graduate:

Sergeline and son Jobens 
Joanne and son Ricardo 
Fedline and daughter Michlanda 
Leoni and son Judler 
Faphane and daughter Rebecca 
Alloune and daughter Ashline
Mirlene and daughter Bianca

Thank you for your continued support.