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Arizona Youth Partnership is one of 17 organizations across the country to receive new funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to develop maternity group homes for young people. AZYP is a non-profit organization that was founded in Pima County in 1990 and now serves 10,000 youth per year in seven counties across the state.

The organization’s strategy for these homes is different from many group homes in that local families receive their funding to host local teens who are parents and struggling with homelessness. 

AZYP has been working with homeless youth since 2011 and in January 2019 integrated Teen Outreach Pregnancy Services into its operations, another nonprofit that works with pregnant teens. Teen Outreach Pregnancy Services is now known as the Starting Out Right for Homeless Parenting Youth program under AZYP.

“It was really the coming together and the merger of our two organizations that allowed us to obtain this funding,” said Lori Malangone, the CEO of AZYP. “The thing we’re so excited about is this is really our two missions coming together so that we can more effectively serve the community.”

Funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through the Family and Youth Services Bureau is dispersed with funding for maternity group homes once every three years. 

“It’s very limited and so it’s really competitive which is why we were all so very shocked and excited,” Malangone said.

The plan for those funds is to set up 10 host homes for homeless or nearly homeless pregnant or parenting youth, ages 16 to 22, across the seven counties they serve. This will include at least two homes in Pima County.

AZYP is actively recruiting host families, who will receive a small stipend for their support, to take in a homeless pregnant or parenting youth. 

“Doing the host home model, we really want to develop some strong families that have a desire to serve and help nurture this young family into becoming awesome parents themselves,” said Laura Pedersen, AZYP Chief Initiative Officer.

Each host home will have a case manager assigned to overlook and assist both the host family and the young family living with them. This includes a weekly check-in at the home and setting up a plan for success in the future, whether that is finishing their education or acquiring the necessary training to economically provide for themselves and their child.

Teens under the age of 18 can stay at their hosts’ homes until they turn 18, no matter how long that timeline is. Women over the age of 18 can stay in the homes for 18 months. This allows time for AZYP to work with the young parents to set up a plan for a more stable future.

As a part of the AZYP continuum of care, when young families leave their host homes, they still receive case management services and check-ins. They also run support groups for the young families to connect with each other.

AZYP provides both group and one-on-one parenting education programs to ensure these young parents are prepared to lead an autonomous life.

With numerous coalitions, AZYP brings primary prevention education into the communities they serve to cultivate strong families and reduce teen pregnancy. 

According to a 2016 report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Arizona ranked 18 out of 51 (50 states plus the District of Columbia) on final 2016 teen birth rates among females ages 15-19 (with 1 representing the highest rate, and 51 representing the lowest rate).” 

“As an organization, we’re all about helping youth grow up to be healthy, self-sufficient adults,” Malangone said. “We’re taking on all kinds of new initiatives and trying to make the community a good place for youth to grow up and get them on their feet.”

Jack Ramsey is a University of Arizona journalism student and Tucson Local Media intern.

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