Our Mother’s Home Of Southwest Florida

Where children are cherished and futures are fostered

At Our Mother’s Home, we have had the privilege of receiving grant funds from the NAILBA Charitable Foundation for the past six years for our Mentored Living program.

As with any nonprofit, it can be a struggle to maintain, or increase, funding each year. We receive donations from a variety of sources and without the help of grants such as this one, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do.

We have helped more than 400 teen mothers and their children get the basic life skills they need to have a productive life and help break the cycle of poverty, abuse and human-trafficking.

Our Mother’s Home of Southwest Florida, Inc., provides a safe and nurturing environment for teen moms ages 12-21 in foster care and their babies. Prior to the launch of Our Mother’s Home in 2000, teenage mothers in foster care were often separated from their child at birth. This unique home is the only one in Southwest Florida to provide this service to break the cycle one teen at a time.

The Mentored Living program promotes education, health, happiness and integration into the community with home-based support services for teen mothers. We provide parenting classes, therapy and life skills education, counseling and tutoring, personal care and housekeeping, and independent living training.

Adolescent mothers continue their high school education and receive the tutoring classes they need. The girls participate in our “Nurturing Parenting Program,” which introduces positive family values which were foreign to them as children living in long-term multiple foster placements.

Just as importantly, each young mother and her child receive proper medical care, including pre/post-natal care, well-child visits, vision, dental, physical and mental care. The children are able to get a healthy, positive start in life and many of the mothers receive the care they had been denied in the past.

This grant has helped us help so many moms and their children. Specifically, the grant in 2019 changed the lives of three teen moms and two former residents and participants of the Mentored Living Program at Our Mother’s Home.

Three teen moms graduated with high school diplomas and two former moms graduated from local colleges. The college graduates both obtained professional jobs in their field of study. One became a second grade teacher and the other a dental hygienist.

More importantly, each mother has retained custody of her child while working and continuing her education. They would not have been able to see this achievement as a possibility without having the love, guidance, empowerment and support of Our Mother’s Home.

Not only are these mothers a success story for our community, but they also are great role models for their children who they are now raising in a happy, healthy environment.
These are just a few of our recent success stories that show the impact this grant can make in the Southwest Florida community. We have been able to preserve the families of about 90 percent of our Mentored Living participants.

We have been able to help Dorothy, who arrived just before turning 17. She had been placed in foster care at age eight and had been sexually abused by a family member. She and her child were able to stay together while she received a high school diploma and enrolled in college. She now has her own apartment and is attending school.

Another success story is Sean, who arrived at Our Mother’s Home as an infant diagnosed with “failure to thrive” syndrome from lack of nurturing. Sean and his mother, a victim of Human Trafficking, had been separated for 11 months; she was forced to work in the fields while baby Sean lay swaddled on a wooden palette. When they were reunited at Our Mother’s Home Sean was 21 months old but functioned only at the level of a six-month-old. Sean began to thrive at Our Mother’s Home, receiving the physical and speech therapy he so desperately needed to save his life. Today, Sean is a healthy and happy child and his mother received the love and support she had been lacking so she could build her confidence and become a good parent.
These lives were changed because grants such as this one help us provide a service no one else is providing. It gives mothers hope and it gives their child a chance at a good life. Without grants and our dedicated supporters we wouldn’t have these success stories to share.
Local NAILBA member Bob Lombardo, president of Lombardo Brokerage Services, nominated Our Mother’s Home, Mentored Living Program. We are proud to have Mr. Lombardo’s support as well as overwhelming support from the community.

There are many organizations, clubs, churches and other groups that hold fundraisers for Our Mother’s Home because they believe in our mission and they see the results. Our sponsors and donors know their commitment will do more than save the life of a child. It will preserve our community’s future. These mothers become successful, productive members of our community. These children grow up becoming active members of society—our teachers and leaders. In addition, we have designed our Mentored Living Program as a prototype home and model program that, with your help, could be duplicated all across the country.

By simultaneously mentoring foster mothers to care for their children, counseling them to overcome histories of childhood abuse and keeping them together with their baby throughout, Our Mother’s Home is breaking the cycle of foster care for this forgotten special population of youth.

Because of supporters with huge hearts, we are able to continue breaking the cycle of abuse, neglect and generational poverty that afflicts teen mothers. We are grateful to be awarded the grant from the NAILBA Charitable Foundation.

To help with the great work of Our Mother’s Home, please visit http://OurMothersHome.com and make a donation. To learn more about the efforts of the NAILBA Charitable Foundation to improve lives in communities throughout our country and make a donation please visit http://nailbacharitablefoundation.org.

Karen Watson, MSW, is executive director of Our Mother’s Home of Southwest Florida, Inc. She grew up in Fort Myers, FL, and is a 2008 alumni of Florida Gulf Coast University where she acquired a Master Degree in Social Work. She also has a Child Development Associate and Directors Credential.

Watson worked 22 years for the School District of Lee County where she taught Head Start, working with pregnant moms and infants and toddlers. For 10 years she was devoted to modeling best practices, providing resources, advocating for moms and children from birth to three years old, and teaching moms to be their child’s first best teacher.

Watson came to believe that poor parenting was the root cause of impoverished students’ social, developmental and nutritional obstacles. She wanted to teach the parents to be the best parent they could be and give children a winning start before entering school.

Watson joined OMH in 2007, served one year as vice president, a year and a half as president, and in 2011 became the executive director. In her commitment to the community, she has served as health chairperson for The National Association for Advancement of Colored People, volunteered for the Red Cross, and acts as a mentor for Footsteps to the Future for young single mothers. In 2015 she was awarded the Golden Baby Shoe Award for social service to help give babies a healthy start in life. In 2016 Watson founded Impact Dunbar, an initiative to impact women and children in the Dunbar Community through the Southwest Florida Community Foundation. In 2018 she was recognized as one of Southwest Florida’s 28 Top Most Influential Diverse Persons by the Cape Coral Community Foundation and recognized as one of the Top 20 Fundraising Professionals in Southwest Florida by News-Press. She has been featured in several magazines such as E’Bella, Pinnacle of FGCU, Parent and Child and Granduer.

Watson can be reached at Our Mother’s Home of Southwest Florida, Inc., 7438 Carrier Road, Fort Myers, FL 33967.