Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Evanston’s Teen Baby Nursery provides childcare and education for young parents

Femi Horrall/The Daily Northwestern
Evanston’s Teen Baby Nursery provides educational support to teen parents.

The walls of Evanston’s Teen Baby Nursery burst with vibrant colors and artwork on a Monday afternoon, welcoming visitors as they walked through the doors.

The nursery is located inside the Infant Welfare Society of Evanston, which aims to support local parents who need assistance taking care of their children.

The nursery works with children whose parents are between the ages of 14 and 23. About half of U.S. teen mothers graduate high school, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But, 90% of TBN participants have graduated from high school in recent years, according to the nursery’s website.

“We’re not babysitters, we are educators,” said Tiffany Culpepper, the nursery’s site director. “It’s a lot of hard work, time, dedication and compassion. That’s crucial for the work that we do.” 

Culpepper said the program tries to create an environment that encourages learning. The staff takes advantage of every opportunity to teach, even if it’s as simple as asking a child what color leaves they see on a tree. Children also participate in games and art projects that allow for hands-on learning.

“We try to make sure that no matter where the child comes from or how old they are, they get these learning opportunities and see what’s in store for them in the real world,” Culpepper adds. 

The nursery facility consists of two classrooms: one for infants aged 6 weeks to 18 months old, and the other for toddlers, aged 18 months to 3 years old.

Three teachers work in each classroom with a maximum of eight children per room. This allows each child to receive individualized attention, which can enhance their development, according to Iesha Lane, the toddler room’s head teacher.

Lane said that education early in childhood is just as important as education later in life. 

“A lot of them are misunderstood because they’re learning how to talk, and they’re learning how to do things,” Lane said. “So, sometimes I think it gets overlooked because they’re ‘babies,’ but we have to teach them …  They have to be grown people in the world one day.” 

Lane said TBN builds relationships with parents as well. She said the teachers communicate with parents frequently about how their children have been doing. Teachers also often suggest possible activities that the kids could benefit from trying at home. 

Many of the parents using the nursery’s services are Evanston Township High School students, said Mary Aceron, the infant classroom’s head teacher. 

According to Culpepper, raising children while in high school adds responsibilities to students’ lives that are difficult to handle. The nursery helps by taking on some of that responsibility, she said. 

Aceron said she’s seen TBN grow throughout her seven years at the nursery. More members of the community have begun using their services, she added. 

“Growing up, especially when I was in high school, I didn’t hear about any program like this,” she said. “ So it’s good that it’s being promoted, and it’s being talked about. It’s opening up.” 

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