Children First

Cristina Swank cried when at age 17 when she and her boyfriend, Peter Payne, also 17, looked at the results of her pregnancy test together. She tested positive. Swank said she was very surprised, as well as crying and worried - about telling her parents, and providing for a child.

For Swank, neither abortion nor adoption were alternatives. Swank said she wanted to be able to provide a safe environment for her baby to grow up in, and raise her baby in a family.

Swank stayed in school for a couple of months, but then switched to an alternative program, where she could study from home and still graduate with a diploma from Yukon High School. Swank said she tired more easily when pregnant, and worried that once she got big it would be difficult to navigate the crowded halls at the school.

Swank and Payne, who stayed in classes, both graduated in May.

Swank, who said she "didn't know anything" about being pregnant or babies, turned to the program Children First with the Oklahoma City/County Health Department. The family support program offers home visitation to first time mothers expecting their first child through two years of age. Typical visits involve health assessments, growth/development assessments and health education.

Swank said both of their parents have been very supportive; Swank and Payne lived first with his parents and then with her grandmother, but she said she didn't want to have to live with family members for more than six months after her baby, Sophia Payne, was delivered. In one month, Sophia turns six months old, and the family of three will move into their own apartment.

Of the Children First program, Swank said, "I love it." Both her and Payne recommend it highly, for both young moms and dads. Swank credits nurse Sara Young with being both her nurse and her friend through her pregnancy, the birth of her daughter, and learning to care for her daughter. She said Young was supportive, reassuring, and gave her information, explaining things that her doctor didn't.

Swank is currently working on finishing cosmetology school and getting her license. She plans to enter the Oklahoma City campus of Oklahoma State University. Payne is working in production at an Oklahoma City factory.