The Elizabeth Ministry, Inc. model is predicated on the belief that youth will develop into healthy young adults if the adults in their lives are intentional about ensuring their overall social (spiritual, economic, academic) and emotional well being. The Ministry seeks to be true to this belief by targeting approximately 25 young mothers currently in the child welfare system, and offering them the opportunity to participate in a 5-year body of work aimed at developing, supporting, and nurturing them into becoming self-directed young adults who will be trained in the rudiments of life management for positive outcomes, including the opportunity to be trained in the rudiments of home management and home ownership, positive employment, educational attainment and supportive parenting.
The population was selected because the youth are in the foster care or child welfare system, they are high-risk, and their life outcomes are predicted to be unfavorable if they are not meaningfully supported until they reach young adulthood. The Ministry believes that these young women and their children can and will succeed, and become contributors to society with adequate supports.
Through the funding received from the District of Columbia’s Child and Family Service Agency, Office of Early Childhood Development, and philanthropic support, The Elizabeth Ministry proposes to support all operating costs associated with an enhanced independent living facility as well as to implement a program with the following component parts: mentoring, case management, family and child development, economic self-sufficiency, psycho-social development; spirituality/religiosity; and education, employment, and economic self-sufficiency.
The Elizabeth Ministry, Inc.’s goals are based on best practices associated with positive youth development:
The Ministry has purchased two 15-unit apartment buildings in far Northeast Washington, D.C. The apartment buildings will undergo a complete renovation beginning in 2009, and will be made ready for the young mothers and their babies by mid 2012. The purchase was possible through the support of the District Government, Department of Housing and Community Development; Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and M&T Bank.
The young women will be selected to be a part of this intense 5-year development process through the process of self-selection, and the public agencies that currently have responsibility for their well-being. Each young woman will be assigned two faith-centered women who will be identified, selected, and trained to serve as the young women’s guides, as they embrace a structured, organized and connected life in community. They will be required to forego a second pregnancy, to, where possible, develop relationships with their birth parents, complete high school, or obtain a GED, enter college or vocational school, take parent training classes, become spiritually connected,* and actively engage in the self-governing process of their apartment community.
At the end of 5-years, the young women will receive funds that represent money that the Ministry has put aside for them, in addition to their own money, symbolic of an “equity interest” in the two-bedroom apartment that they and their children have lived in during their training. They can live in their units for an additional 1-3 years, and continue to accrue interest in their savings and “equity” accounts. Upon leaving, they will be given a pay-out from each account towards the purchase of a new home, or educational pursuits.
2 15-unit apartment buildings, with 27-livable, fully electric units: Each with living/dining room, 2-bedrooms, air-conditioner; stove, refrigerator, and dish washers. The bottom floor of one of the buildings will serve as the Ashanti Early Learning Center. These buildings are currently undergoing a comprehensive renovation and will be available for occupancy during the summer of 2012.
The Elizabeth Ministry, Inc. is modeling its early learning program for infants and toddlers (0-3 years) in The Ashanti Early Learning Academy after the Abecedarian learning model. This model was developed in the early 70’s and has a well documented record of accomplishments in supporting the healthy development of early learners, from infancy to kindergarten, from low socio-economic backgrounds.
The model considers the whole child, and introduces educational activities as “games” that are incorporated in the child’s day; provides for an individualized prescription of educational activities for each child; focuses activities on the social, emotional and cognitive areas of development with particular emphasis on language development; and closely monitors and documents each child’s progress. The moral character of the child will also be stressed in his/her development plan. The Learning Academy will be a child’s place where learning is viewed as a natural process that simply needs to be encouraged and supported by capable, caring adults.
The Abecedarian model’s long term findings indicate that children involved in this teach/learning approach:
The Learning Academy’s program is designed for 25 infants and toddlers who will be supported by parents (as first teachers), and qualified, certified child development specialists who have completed, at a minimum, the development related training courses that are approved by the District of Columbia.
The designer of the Abecedarian model, Dr. Craig T. Ramsey, Director of the Center for Health and Education at Georgetown University, has expressed strong interest in working with the Elizabeth Ministry to develop the initiative within its program.