There is a special kind of emptiness that besets a single, teenage mom. Many feel all alone -- except for the one person who is counting on them to survive. It's a despair Jerrica Schreib knows all too well. She got pregnant at just 15 years old, and had to grow up fast.
"I had no where to go. I didn't know what to do," said Jerrica, now 17. "I stayed with all my family and friends that I could. There was nobody else that could take us."
Jerrica has essentially been homeless since her daughter Emma was born 20 months ago. Jessica's parents couldn't afford to support the two, so she has been sleeping with her baby on the couches of friends and family. The stress of caring for a child while not knowing where she'd be sleeping that night took a toll on both Jerrica and her baby.
"It was really affecting her, not having a stable place to stay," said Jerrica. "I can see the change completely since we've been here."
On Christmas Day, Jerrica got a call from Cocoon House (www.cocoonhouse.org). The organization had just opened the doors of its new Arlington home for teen mothers, the only place like it in the state.
"That was the best Christmas present," said Jerrica.
Cocoon House provides shelter and food, along with parenting and life skills training for 13- to 18-year-old mothers. Mostly, it provides a family for mothers who are still children themselves.
"This program is a nice place for them to continue to live out their childhood while they learn to be an adult, to be a mom, and while they take care of their sweet little ones," said Cocoon House CEO Cassie Franklin. "We stress education while teaching them how to live within boundaries and how to set them for their own children."
Half of teen mothers have children who end up as teen mothers themselves. The Washington State Department of Health reports there were 5,058 girls between 12 and 19 years of age who gave birth in 2012. That number has steadily been declining over the past decade.
Now in a more stable situation, Jerrica plans to finish high school and hopefully attend college. The emptiness now filled with love and hope.
"If I didn't have the support I just would've gone downhill by myself," she said. "I'm doing good because of Emma. I have to do good for her."