Parents attest raising children is never easy. Though there are public, government and federal agencies and programs in place to support parents, sometimes entering into the system can have adverse effects.  Working outside the confines and, sometimes, limiting or punitive challenges of government agencies, Mother’s Outreach Network (MON) is working to empower moms by providing support, access to legal resources and more.

“Mothers Outreach Network is an advocacy organization. And it’s really aimed at mobilizing and uplifting mothers in D.C. And our goal is really to change laws and family programs from being punitive to being empowering and we’re working to empower mothers to be a part of that process,” Melody Webb, MON’s executive director, told The Informer. “We’re also working to challenge false stereotypes about parents who are asking for support. Again, I’ve seen, firsthand, the ways that a system can penalize a parent who has the bravery to seek support and who has the strength to carry on despite all the challenges.”

Through legal programming, policy advocacy, community engagement, organizing and initiatives such as the recent “Mother Up” project, MON offers mothers hands-on support while also serving as advocates and justice fighters to reframe what asking for assistance looks like for families in need.

Mother Up is MON’s newest program to subsidize Black mothers in need by particularly targeting those who are currently or have been recently involved with the District of Columbia Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA).  Intentionally functioning outside of government agencies, Mother Up is a guaranteed income program all about bolstering and empowering Black moms.

“This is about supporting Black moms that navigate financial insecurity, not blaming them for the systemic injustices that got them there,” said Webb, 54, a native Washingtonian and attorney who helped found MON in 2010.

“The program really is based upon work that I did, where I saw up close the role that poverty plays in driving involvement and actually identification by the system,” she said. “And what we know is that the statistics demonstrate that 12% of the people involved with the child welfare system are actually housing insecure

In its first of three phases, “Mother UP,” has a cohort of five mothers who will be receiving cash payments of $500 a month for three years.

“Those mothers are pioneers in this program. We know that there are different challenges with providing people with no and low income and cash assistance with cash support. And so we’re striving very hard with them to make sure that they don’t lose their benefits, but it’s very hard due to flaws in our social safety net.”

The pilot or “soft launch,” as Webb described is supported by such organizations as  W.K. Kellogg Foundation and The Health Equity Fund at The Greater Washington Community Foundation (GWCF).

“When we support mothers, we are supporting children and families,” said Nara Topp, program officer at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. “This pilot has the potential to help mothers facing significant economic barriers to gain better financial footing with flexibility and autonomy.”

Dr. Marla Dean, senior director of GWCF’s Healthy Equity Fund explained the guaranteed income program as “very important.”

“In a city as wealthy and resourceful as the District, all of its residents should have a basic income — one that allows all families to thrive,” said Dean. “The Health Equity Fund believes that there is an extricable link between health and wealth, and reaching the goal of health equity begins with economic mobility. MON’s pilot is an important step in this process.”

Phase two and three of the program is about research 

Webb said MON’s goal is for “Mother Up” to significantly grow, eventually with at least 50 and up to 200 parents receiving cash payments. 

“We are not quite at our goal yet,” Webb explained. “So that at the lower end, you know, we’ve raised nearly half of what we need, and for the upper end, which is about $5 million, you know, we’re quite a ways away.”

In order to get to that goal, MON is accepting donations and partnerships with the community.

WI Managing Editor Micha Green is a storyteller and actress from Washington, D.C. Micha received a Bachelor’s of Arts from Fordham University, where she majored in Theatre, and a Master’s of Journalism...

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