Rita Fink, right, gives a tour of Mom's House, a program for young parents, to Sarah Kadlick during an open house in Toledo.
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Rita Fink would never trade her 13-month-old daughter for anything, but she still counsels high school girls to abstain until they have an education and a husband.
"I tell them be careful who you trust. You don't really know somebody. Teens have the 'not me' thing. 'It would never happen to me. Why somebody send me a baby?' they say" she said. "You need a husband and a steady lifestyle because it is really hard."
The 19-year-old, with red hair and freckles, helped with ceremonies Sunday to announce Toledo First Lady Cynthia Ford, the wife of Mayor Jack Ford, as the executive director of Mom's House. Ms. Ford is paid $50,000 a year and is in charge of administering the $300,000 annual program and raising money for it.
Ms. Fink is part of the private, nonprofit program at 2505 Franklin Ave. that provides free day care for high school and college-aged moms, and some dads, so they can finish school.
Ms. Fink is studying at Davis College to become a medical assistant. The moms must go to school full-time and volunteer at the house for two or more hours a week.
The moms and other volunteers, including the mayor, rock babies, garden, and work around the newly painted house.
"I have been painting, scrubbing, rocking babies. I have been asking for money," said Ms. Ford, who has been on the job since early last month.
Researchers have long known that statistics show a child's success in school is closely related to the education level of the mother. Mom's House began in Johnstown, Pa., with that idea in mind. The Toledo version has been in operation for 10 years.
Mayor Ford, who attended the ceremony Sunday, said Toledo has a problem with teen pregnancy. "We led the state and then there was a massive intervention six or more years ago that worked. But now our rates have crept back up,' he said. "She had me out washing windows at 8 a.m. She has a lot of friends; it'll be fun and hard work and hope."
Bill Sheehan, president of the board of directors for Mom's House, said that Ms. Ford was chosen from several applicants and that she "is uniquely qualified."
Ms. Ford has worked as a drug prevention educator for eight years, the last two at Toledo Children's Hospital. In the past she could be found at the house performing puppet shows for the children, who range in age from six weeks to 5 years old.
The program is designed to break the cycle of poverty for low-income moms who are in high school, college, or technical school. But they must work at the house and attend class.
"I clean the infant room or scrub toilets just like anybody would on their own," said Ms. Fink, who takes classes two days a week and works at a pharmacy the other three work days. "My life is on the right track now.
Contact Christopher D. Kirkpatrick
at 419 724-6077 or