I’ve previously written in Revive about my connection to Trinity Learning Centre (TLC) as a past student when my son was a baby. It was a sad day for many other past students, teachers, classroom supervisors, crèche staff, congregation members, committee members and volunteers when TLC closed its doors on Saturday 28 February this year. TLC, a program of UnitingCare West, originally began out of Trinity Uniting Church (now part of Uniting Church in the City) providing education and support to pregnant and parenting young mothers. I’ve written about the impact TLC had on my life before, so I won’t get into that again. I have a better story to tell…
At the farewell, Sue Ash, CEO of UnitingCare West, spoke about the sadness and anger people felt at the news that this amazing program was ending. She then reminded us of the success of TLC – not just for the women who graduated, but also for the church as it filled a need. When TLC began, almost 30 years ago, there was nothing like it in Perth. Dr Harry Cohen recognised a need for young mothers to have an opportunity to finish high school, through his work at King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women, which has a dedicated adolescent maternity ward.
Now, young pregnant women have a range of options. Whilst the support is not the same as TLC offered, women can now study through other outlets such as Government schools with specialist programs and even online. Teenage pregnancy is still occurring, but more options have led to less and less students enrolling in the program.
I tweeted an article on Twitter about the closure of TLC and the Uniting Church in Australia tweeted back: “Mission accomplished!”
TLC highlighted a need and created a culture change, where Government schools are recognising the importance of supporting teenage parents to finish school. There’s a lot of research done on the benefits of this, both for mother and child.
It’s a fantastic success.
The rest of the church can learn from this. While attendance on a Sunday morning dwindles, perhaps there are other ways of being a church. Perhaps some things need to be let go, so that others can flourish? A valuable conversation on possible futures of the Uniting Church will be taking place in May, when Dr Keith Suter – who’s research we’ve written about in the past – will be visiting Perth.
Heather Dowling, editor, Revive magazine