Last Saturday morning, the Alliance of Moms (AOM) held its second Raising Baby event at Children's Institute, Inc., focused on providing pregnant and parenting foster youth with an education and health wellness day. Donning Alliance of Moms t-shirts, multiple celebrities including Kristen Bell, Jessica Alba, Rachel Bilson, Jordana Brewster and Rosemarie DeWitt, attended the event, ready to lend a helping hand. Michael Ealy showed up later, surprising the young parents, many of whom took pictures with the actor, known for his starring role in The Perfect Guy.
Welcoming close to one hundred current and former foster youth, along with their adorable children, to the event, Raising Baby provided the young parents with multiple workshops and activities.
AOM, a volunteer-led auxiliary organization to the Alliance for Children's Rights, put on the event. Both the Alliance of Moms and the Alliance for Children's Rights make a concerted effort to better the lives of pregnant and parenting foster youth. AOM creates educational programs for the population, including Raising Baby, while the Alliance for Children's Rights provides various services, including Pregnant and Parenting Teen Conferences, Doula support, policy advocacy and legal services to meet health and wellness needs, for both the young parents and their children.
The theme for this Raising Baby event was early childhood brain development. Dr. Dayna Long, a pediatric specialist at Children's Hospital Oakland who led the Talk, Read and Sing workshop, noted the significance of brain development. "Brain development is really important, and right now, you have the opportunity to build really strong brains in your children," she said.
Janis Spire, CEO of the Alliance for Children's Rights, discussed the need for education around brain development. "Many of these youth might otherwise go without that exposure," she said.
Jessica Chandler, a former client of the Alliance for Children's Rights and mother to two young boys, is now a social worker and heavily involved in AOM. Before leading a workshop on talking to children, she talked about the importance of focusing on pregnant and parenting foster youth. She said, "It's time to address the fact that these pregnant and parenting teens in particular might have experienced a lot of trauma and might not be as capable of raising young kids, something that the Alliance of Moms is seeking to change."
When asked about her interest in the event, Kristen Bell, an actress widely known for her roles in Veronica Mars, Gossip Girl and Frozen, said, "When I became a mom, I was finally feeling first-hand how challenging and amazing the job of motherhood is. It made me realize how important a familial support system is to the mental, emotional and physical health of any human being."
Bell's interest in foster youth sparked through her friend's involvement with the organization Angels Foster Family Network in San Diego. "I really get inspired by her work," Bell said.
Taking to Bell about her desire to continue working with foster youth, she said, "Desire? Very much so. Nothing is truer than it takes a village."
Spire, CEO of the Alliance for Children's Rights, commented on the collaborative nature of the event, saying, ""I love that the [Los Angeles] County is involved, probation and DCFS [Department of Children and Family Services]. There's a momentum of collaboration that seems to be happening in Los Angeles. It's all around awareness, engagement and commitment."
Spire continued to talk about collaboration, noting the power of involving Hollywood's elite, "We and our community partners can only bring so much. It's a way to bring resources and support to these youth, to really see how all of LA's resources are recognizing the need and coming in to help." Her comments exemplify how the Alliance of Moms capitalizes on the power behind Hollywood to increase awareness and opportunity for this population, which often lacks both.
"The Alliance of Moms is very genuine," Spire said. "They're not about showing up once and getting their picture taken. They're all ready to help, and they really put a force behind their intentions."
Kristen Bell, Rachel Bilson, Jessica Alba and Jordana Brewster all participated in workshops and interacted with the young parents and children throughout their time at the event. Jordana Brewster, known largely for her roles in the Fast and Furious chain, stated, "This particular event is very hands-on. It's nice to work face-to-face rather than just raising money."
Yennifer, an 18-year-old parent at the event, said, "It [the celebrity involvement] caught me off guard. I think it's a great thing. It's nice to see how much they're all like us and how much they really care. I never expected it."
In addition to Jessica Alba's attendance at the event, her company, The Honest Company, donated a number of items to the event that went in each of the youth's customized "goodie bags", including tote bags, wipes, and various cosmetics. The bags also included shoes, clothes, snacks, and toys, for the parents and their children, amounting to hundreds of dollars' worth of goods in each bag.