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Cocoon House opens maternity group home in Arlington
ARLINGTON — Seven years after Cocoon House first opened the doors of its house in Arlington as an emergency shelter for teens, it reopened at the start of December to respond to a slightly different crisis among area young people.
As of its Dec. 5 open house to the community, the Arlington Cocoon House had already taken in two pregnant teenagers as part of its new purpose as a maternity group home.
“We expect to get another girl later this week,” said Jen Chwalibog, director of development and community relations for Cocoon House, on Dec. 5. “There really isn’t another program in Snohomish County that serves teen moms under the age of 16, which is a huge issue because where else can they go, when they find themselves out on the streets?”
With a few minor additions, the Arlington Cocoon House is now ready to take in as many as five homeless pregnant or parenting teen moms, between the ages of 13-17, as well as their children. While Chwalibog will serve as one of the Arlington maternity group home’s staff members, of which there will be one or two on site at all times, Cocoon House CEO Cassie Franklin was among those giving guided tours of the two-story residence on Dec. 5.
“The Arlington Cocoon House served as an emergency shelter for teens until September of last year, when that part of it moved to Monroe,” Franklin told visitors, including Arlington City Council member Debora Nelson. “What we saw was a big need to serve teen moms who aren’t living in safe situations, whether they’re homeless or they don’t have enough support. It was hard to get a license for teenage mothers that young, so it took us more than a year.”
Franklin explained that the four upstairs bedrooms had partial divider walls built in, between the mothers’ beds and the babies’ cribs, to allow the mothers unrestricted access to their babies in the same room, while still affording them a small separation for some breathing room.
“We can take in our teen moms for up to 21 months, or until they turn 18,” said Franklin, who noted that many of the teenage mothers on Cocoon House’s waiting list were referred from programs formerly run by Deaconess Children’s Services. “In Everett, Housing Hope offers more independent group housing for slightly older moms through its New Century Village, but the girls who come here need more supervision. At the same time that they’re learning how to be parents, they need to be parented too, so we help them finish up their childhoods.”
The downstairs bedroom is designed for bedridden mothers, with a handicapped-accessible full bathroom across the hall, just as the upstairs has two full bathrooms and two additional sinks for its four bedrooms. Franklin expects that the downstairs bedroom will be set aside for pregnant mothers who are nearing their delivery dates, which is another reason why at least one staff member is on site at all times, in case one of the moms goes into unexpected labor.
“That’s why it’s great that we’re located so close to Cascade Valley Hospital,” Franklin said, since the hospital can be seen from the home. “This community has been very supportive of Cocoon House. One of the local churches has made meals for us once a week, and the Rotary and Lions clubs have been wonderful. Housing Hope has even helped us with parenting classes.”
Joe Alonzo, director of programs for Cocoon House, appreciates how the Arlington Cocoon House provides both private areas, such as the individual bedrooms and the guest visitation room, in addition to shared common spaces, such as the toy room, the living room and the large kitchen and dining rooms, the latter of which allow the house’s residents to take their meals together or on their own, depending on their schedules.
“It creates a familial atmosphere for them during a tumultuous time in their lives,” Alonso said. “It should feel like a home, not a facility.”
Gene and Jane Radermacher are next-door neighbors to the Arlington Cocoon House, and they’re simply happy to see the house being used again, especially since they, like Nelson, were there for its original opening in 2006.
“It’s exciting to have this resource available to our community,” Nelson said. “We’ll probably need another one in a few years. When I think about what these girls have gone through, it really touches my heart.”