You Don’t Have to Do It Alone

The Tikahtnu Tribal Alliance for Young Families is making sure young parents have what they need to raise successful, healthy families

A young mother shares an intimate moment with her child.

This is no place to raise two children, much less three. That was the thought Tatianna Potter had as she gazed at her former home, a transitional living space provided by Safe Harbor. A bed, a microwave, a fridge — she knew she needed more than this for her family, which was about to grow: Tatianna was expecting her third child.

“I went from having nothing to having my own place,” Tatianna marveled recently. At 25, Tatianna now lives in an apartment, recently finished an internship, and is working her way toward independence with the support of CITC’s Tikahtnu Tribal Alliance for Young Families.

Something Clicked

While at Safe Harbor, Tatianna had a visit from Ilina Saucedo, a Parent Navigator with CITC’s Tikahtnu Alliance. At first, things didn’t go well.

“I was really angry,” Tatianna recalled.

“I saw a woman who was stressed out, behind on her rent, out of compliance with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF),” Ilina elaborated. “I told her, ‘Right now, you just want to give up on everything. I get it.’”

Ilina’s words weren’t empty sympathy. She really had been right where Tatianna was. When she was pregnant with her son, Ilina had stayed at Safe Harbor, too.

“Something clicked in that conversation because Tatianna started moving forward and progressing,” Ilina said.

“Ilina stayed in contact with me,” Tatianna added. “She gave me advice and kept me motivated, and I busted my butt to get an internship. She gave me hope that things would get better and I would make something out of myself.”

Becoming Self-Sufficient

The Tikahtnu Tribal Alliance for Young Families offers assistance for young parents now to set them up to be successful without the support of CITC services later.

The Tikahtnu Alliance focuses on finding services and support for young Alaska Native people, under the age of 24, who are pregnant or parenting. Parent Navigators like Ilina provide guidance and referrals to partner agencies for additional support, and they help new parents create an action plan. The Alliance also offers financial support for necessities like diapers, wipes, car seats, cribs, and other items.

“We’re really aimed at reducing the number of expecting teens and young adults who need assistance later on,” explained Krystal Kompkoff, CITC Youth Services Manager. “If we can help them build a network of support and financial security now, those young parents can achieve the self-sufficiency they need to raise their families without additional CITC services.”

The program primarily serves Alaska Native parents, connecting them with child care, wellness opportunities, employment referrals and placements, educational services, and financial assistance. However, non-native expecting or parenting youth are eligible for referrals to other agencies, peer navigation, outreach activities, and other opportunities. Parents do not need to have full-time custody of their children to be receive services.

Empowering Alaska Native People

While the Tikahtnu Tribal Alliance for Young Families focuses on Alaska Native/American Indian parents, some services are also available for non-Native parents.

The United States experiences the highest rate of teen pregnancies when compared to other developed nations; Alaska’s teen birth rate has been above the national average since 2008. According to the most current data from the Alaska Division of Public Health, Alaska Native people are disproportionately affected by the state’s high number of teen and young adult pregnancies. The rate of births among Alaska Native/American Indian youth ages 20 – 24 is 33.5 percent, versus 25.9 percent among the population as a whole.

“There are lots of services that exist to help a baby or child develop, but there aren’t as many to support a young person to become a good parent and raise a child,” Krystal pointed out.

The high rate of teen and young adult pregnancy among Alaska Native individuals is compounded by other barriers faced by that population — like poverty, lack of access to early care and learning, exposure to violence, and unemployment. The Tikahtnu Alliance, Krystal said, is one tool to address some of these barriers early on and set young parents up for better outcomes.

“We just want to help young parents be successful,” she said.

“You Are the Thing That Is Holding You Back”

Tatianna faced many of those same obstacles that complicate parenting at a young age, including a lack of stable housing and consistent employment. Still, she says, she recognizes how she sometimes stood in the way of her own progress.

“I’m a big procrastinator,” she admitted. “And I got to a point where I didn’t know what I was doing with my life. We all give up hope at some point, but you can have a different outcome. You’re the only thing that is holding you back. And when you realize that, you can go so far.”

With Ilina’s assistance, Tatianna landed an internship with the Alaska Native Heritage Center, where she served as the executive director’s assistant. Though she left the Heritage Center when her pregnancy progressed, Tatianna hopes to find a permanent job with the organization after her baby is born.

Tatianna has come to a place where she has identifiable goals and doesn’t need much support, Ilina said. “My role now is to help her identify the things she needs to do to accomplish those goals, and to be available to her as needs arise.”

Ilina and Tatianna are both proud at how far Tatianna has come.

“One of the biggest parts of my job is helping people realize they are the creator of their own life,” Ilina remarked. “For Tatianna to be where she was and to now realize that — that is a huge success.”

For more information about the Tikahtnu Tribal Alliance for Young Families, visit the program webpage, or contact (907) 793-3114 or youthemployment@citci.org. You can discover additional youth resources here and here.