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SOUTH-CENTRAL : Teen-Age Parents Tackle Adult Issues


At 19, Candace Galloway says she is like most teen-agers she knows: a single parent.

"In today's generation, it's kind of hard to find a young woman without a baby," Galloway said while attending a class on teen-age parenting at the Faith United Methodist Church at 1713 W. 108th St.

In 1990, more than 24,000 teen-agers became parents in Los Angeles County, according to Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California. Kupaji Jaliwa says such numbers persuaded her to start the "If I Can Help Somebody . . ." teen parenting summer program at the church.

Jaliwa, 33, started the program this summer with a $4,000 grant from the Jonathan Daniels Fellowship and help from the Faith United Methodist Church.

"I used to work out in the field for the Watts Health Foundation and I found there were no programs for teen parents in the area," Jaliwa said. She is currently attending graduate school at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena while working at the Watts Health Foundation.

The eight-week program meets Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the church. The program, which began June 19, is free and open to 13- to 21-year-old parents. Youths can attend all or one session. Workshops include family planning, child development and budgeting, and concludes with an awards banquet to honor the parents.

"I'm young, with a child, and that can be hard," Galloway said, explaining what drew her to the group. "I come here because they always understand. One thing I've realized is that we all share a lot of the same problems. Some people just can't understand what it's like, but you come here and at least one person can relate."

Jaliwa says she is seeking additional grants and funding to allow the program to operate year-round. Currently, about 15 teen-agers attend the meetings.

"It's a reality that we have to deal with . . . (teen-agers) having babies even though we would encourage them to wait," Jaliwa said. "I was a teen parent, and hopefully I can be an example to them that you don't have to get stuck. It may take a little longer to accomplish your goals, but you still can. Just because you have a baby doesn't mean your life has to end."

Jaliwa said she has received some criticism from those who say she is condoning teen-age sex. However, she said that as long as youths such as Galloway attend the meetings and learn to become better parents, she is achieving her goal.

For Galloway, the benefit of the weekly meetings will continue beyond the final session on Aug. 7.

"We're not going to let it end. We're already exchanging telephone numbers and we're going to call each other," she said.

Information: (213) 752-9725.

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