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Small Riverside County Agency Aids Teenage Parents

Times Staff Writer

After careers as a businesswoman, a paralegal and a community college teacher, Phyliss Sunins knew exactly what challenge she wanted next: to create an organization that would provide education and other services for pregnant teenagers and teenage parents around her home base in Riverside County.

As the end of 1999 approached, Sunins was closing in on her goal; the only problem was what to call her nonprofit agency.

Suddenly the flow of ideas that had consumed her for months failed her, and when the papers were finally filed to make the agency a reality, the name at the top was something short of inspiring, or even explanatory: Nonprofit Management Services Inc.

“I’m going to have to do something about that someday,” said Sunins, 38. “But we’ve done good work here, and we want to do more.”

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The Temecula agency, with a staff of eight and a budget last year of $410,000 raised largely through private and corporate donations, focuses on helping teenage parents and pregnant teenagers cope with the new problems they will face.

The young people learn parent skills, personal financial management, goal setting, and how to access information and resources.

The program’s goal is to ensure family stability and enhance the relationship between parent and child.

“Thirty percent of these young parents’ children will end up in foster homes,” said Sunins, who added that she wants to expand to include help for foster children nearing emancipation from the system. But that will take more money.

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Toward that end, the agency’s Angelo Reyes has just completed a grant proposal that, if accepted, would increase its annual budget to $750,000.

“If you have a 17-year-old who has been in the foster care system for a number of years, they are often overwhelmed and unprepared to handle the responsibilities of a healthy adult,” said Sunins. “Without a support system in place, they suffer short- and long-term health and developmental problems.

“We would assign a life coach to them to guide and support them,” she said.

The coach “would also work with the foster parent as emancipation approaches. And that way, the foster parent will be better prepared if they get another child. Social workers are overwhelmed; we need something like this.”

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Nonprofit Management Services received a $15,000 grant from last year’s Times Holiday Campaign. During this holiday season, The Times is featuring programs that have benefited from the fund-raising effort.

Last year’s Holiday Campaign raised $653,000, which was shared by 56 charities serving Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

The Holiday Campaign was established in 2000 as part of the Times Family Fund, a fund of the McCormick Tribune Foundation. The Foundation matches the first $700,000 raised at 50 cents on the dollar.

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All donations are tax-deductible. Contributions of $25 or more may be published in The Times unless a donor requests otherwise; acknowledgment cannot be guaranteed. For more information call (800) LATIMES, Ext. 75771.


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