Gentle Arms: Now I know what I need to do

FRV Gabbie Evan Gentle Arms“There will always be a wall. It makes me sad,” the generally jovial 19-year old Gabbie Healey turns serious and tears form in her bright eyes. “I feel like my mom was never there for me.”

Susan Desrosiers, director of the Gentle Arms teen parenting program, reaches out with a loving touch to Gabbie’s arm, “You know what it’s like to not be a good mom. Now do the opposite.”

Gentle Arms is a residential independent living program that assists homeless teen mothers and their children. We provide a safe home environment for the teens and their children, and a supportive group setting where they can develop their parenting skills.

Gabbie’s son, Evan, just turned one and took his first steps right in the living room of the comfortable victorian home that is Gentle Arms.

“Seeing children take their first steps is wonderful,” Desrosiers says. She quickly admits, “but it’s not as good as the births.”

Desrosiers estimates that she has seen over 200 children take their first steps and she has been present for 20 births.

“In a real way, we are helping these young mothers to take their first steps in parenting, too. We want to make sure they are strong, confident steps, so we strive to create a nurturing, positive environment for our precious young families.”

Girls as young as 13 years old can participate in the program and they can stay at Gentle Arms until they are 20 and a half years old.  Unlike many of the girls who come to Fall River from different parts of the state, Gabbie is local. She grew up on the south coast.

“Ever since I got pregnant and dropped out of school, I didn’t have any motivation,” Gabbie reflects “When I was on my own,  I wanted to get my GED, but just didn’t do it.”

Life went from bad to worse for Gabbie and little Evan. “After I got kicked out of my mother’s house,” Gabbie says , “I lived with family for a little while, but I needed to get out, to make a better way for Evan and for me.”

Gabbie was placed in a teen parenting program in Worcester, but felt the need to be closer to her support network in the Fall River area.

“I came here willingly,” she says.

Since arriving at Gentle Arms in June 2013, she has received her GED and plans to attend Bristol Community College next semester.

“I want to study nursing and get my gerontology certificate. Someday, I’m going to own my own nursing home.”

Gabbie attends worship at The Salvation Army with Evan, Jr. and his father, Evan. “Ever since we started going to church, I’ve been asking ‘What does God want me to do?’”

About the prospect of leaving Gentle Arms some day, Gabbie’s answer is clear. “I want to get out and be a family. Now I know what we need to do. My son can be raised right because I’m in this program. Because of Gentle Arms, we know what we need to do.”

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