When their children were only months old, a trio of Los Angeles moms got together to support young foster mothers in need, forming the Alliance of Moms, a group that helps hundreds of families in the area.
Danika Charity, a former model and now doula, is one of them.
In 2014, Charity joined Jules Leyser and Yasmine Delawari Johnson to create the auxiliary group, which supports the Alliance for Children's Rights, an organization that protects the rights of kids in need.
The AOM, which has grown its network of local moms to more than 400 over the last two years, aims to break the cycle of babies born to teen girls in foster care.
With events such as its twice-yearly Raising Baby program, which happens on September 24 and focuses on infant care and early brain development, these LA moms are making an enormous impact on the community.
We spoke to Charity, a mom of two, about her involvement and what part of volunteering has stuck with her the most.
What inspired you to found the Alliance of Moms?
We were all in a mommy-and-me group together when our babes were 4 and 5 months old. We did a small fundraiser for the Alliance for Children’s Rights' pregnant and parenting teen program not long after forming the group. A year later, we sat down and discussed how we could do more. Raising funds was great, but these girls needed more and our mom friends had more to give. We knew that with our combined resources and energy, we could create programming that could make a meaningful difference in the lives of many young moms and dads and in the lives of their children—our children's peers.
You're particularly connected to the foster-care system, with your mother having experienced it firsthand. How did you want to improve it?
I wanted to improve the access these girls had to resources that could change their lives. Yes, it takes a village, but sometimes it just takes one person or one experience. Growing up, I clearly remember specific people who helped our family, whether they brought us gifts at Christmas time, had us over for meals or gave us rides places. You don’t have to do a lot to have a great impact—you just have to do it with an open heart and open mind.
You don’t have to do a lot to have a great impact—you just have to do it with an open heart and open mind.
Tell us about an experience with one of the pregnant or young foster-care mothers that has stuck with you.
I was doula to a pregnant foster youth two years ago. The first time we met, she shared a lot about her upbringing, her time in foster care and her relationship with her parents. As we spoke about birth and labor, we talked about her fears. Unlike a lot of my clients, she was not scared about labor and the birth. Her biggest fear was that she wouldn’t know how to be a good mom. That afternoon stays with me and has really guided me as I think about what we need to offer these girls programatically.
What has surprised you the most about creating this community of volunteer moms?
I guess I am surprised by how meaningful this work has been to so many of our members. For many of them, it has been a life-changing experience. Not only the work with our youth, but being part of a community of like-minded women who are passionate about doing what they can to make a difference in the lives of these young parents and their children.
What's your advice for moms who also want to found a charitable or community-based organization that helps people in need?
Stay connected to the work and to the people you are serving. It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of running an organization—the fundraising, the meetings. Sometimes we feel like we are professional event planners. For us, it’s going to our classes, engaging with our youth, listening to their stories. Not only are we inspired by every interaction with them, but we stay connected to what they are dealing with and what their needs are so that we are creating programming they want and need. Sometimes it feels like coming up for air.
Where do you hope AOM is in 5 or 10 years?
I would love for us to build a scalable model so we could see Alliance of Moms chapters popping up in cities all over the country. Would also love for Alliance of Moms to be the go-to resource for all youth in foster care who find themselves pregnant.