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#OTGYpsi: Corner Health Center in Ypsilanti adds services for new dads and parents of transgender/non-binary children


Concentrate Ann Arbor

Sarah Rigg's Feature Article: Ypsi's Corner Health Center fills gaps in programming for young fathers, parents of transgender kids

The Corner Health Center

Fathers for Family

Stand Out!


Cathy Shafran: You're listening to 89.1 WEMU-FM. I'm Cathy Shafran, and this is On The Ground Ypsi. It's a program intended to bring you the stories of the Ypsilanti community. And we bring you On The Ground Ypsi in partnership with the reporting team at Concentrate Media. Today, our focus is on a local health center that goes beyond just health needs. It's actually meeting the community with its social and emotional needs. And, today, I am joined by Concentrate Media reporter Rylee Barnsdale, whose online news site is reporting this week on the Corner Health Center in Ypsilanti that's now adding services, like helping young dads and helping parents with transgender and nonbinary youth. So, Rylee, thanks so much for joining us today.

Rylee Barnsdale: No problem, Cathy.

Cathy Shafran: So, what can you tell us about the article this week in Concentrate Media?

Rylee Barnsdale: So, the Corner Health nonprofit organization has been in Ypsi for about 40 years now, and they have a mission to inspire young people to take responsibility and control over their health by providing more affordable health care, which is a little bit hard to come by these days. And some of the ways that Corner is working on, you know, providing that service is by starting these conversations and improving communication when it comes to parts of the health care system that we don't really think about, which is, you know, these young fathers that may be weren't ready to be fathers, as well as parents of transgender and non-binary children, who maybe don't know all of the ins and outs of being trans or non-binary. And On The Ground Project Manager Sarah Rigg spoke with some of the staff at the Corner who are running these programs. Two new programs, Fathers for Family, which is a mentorship program for those young fathers, and Stand Out, which is a workshop series for those parents to learn about the transgender experience in a non-judgmental space, so that they can be there for their kids.

Cathy Shafran: So, these are new programs that are just starting up now?

Rylee Barnsdale: They are new and upcoming, and Sarah has a lot of information about when folks will be able to attend these programs at Corners facility.

Cathy Shafran: In the report in Concentrate Media this week, Sarah Rigg was talking extensively with Ashley Anderson. She's the community outreach and health education manager at Corner Health Center in Ypsilanti, and she's joining us in the studio now. Ashlee, thanks so much for being here.

Ashley Anderson: Hi, thank you for having me.

Cathy Shafran: Tell me a little bit more about the center itself, if you could.

Ashley Anderson: Like Rylee said, Corner Health has been in Ypsilanti for over 42 years. We started in the corner of Ypsilanti High School, and we're actually the first school-based health care center in the state of Michigan. And we started to address teen pregnancy, and, over the years, we've just grown to include other services, like behavioral health care, primary sick visits, gender affirming care, youth leadership programs, maternal infant health program that includes taking care of Mom and Baby throughout pregnancy, all the way up through home visits. And then, we take care of those ages 12 through 25 and their children. So, our heart is Ypsilanti 48198, 48197. We serve Washtenaw County, but because of our gender affirming care services, we actually receive patients from all across the nation.

Cathy Shafran: And I'm assuming that the costs are minimal to none.

Ashley Anderson: Yes. So, our mission is to provide judgement-free care, and it's regardless of your ability to pay. So, whether you are insured, you're underinsured, or you don't have any insurance at all, we're not turning anyone away.

Cathy Shafran: With this group of people that you've been servicing, it's been brought to the attention that there seems to be some lacking services. Is that correct?

Ashley Anderson: Yes. So, we have a pretty robust maternal infant health program. More recently, we've had a number of patients and community members come in and say, "Hey, I have this young dad, I have this soon-to-be dad who, you know, he's losing his mind. He doesn't know what to do. He doesn't know where to go. Do you guys have anything for him?" And I know, in the past we did. But what happened? I'm not sure, because unfortunately, I had to keep saying, "Oh, no, I'm sorry. We don't." You know, how many times can you say, "Oh, no, I'm sorry. We don't," before you're, like, our patients are expressing they have a need, and we need to meet it, and we're positioned to meet it. So, that's what we're doing.

Cathy Shafran: What are the specific needs for the dad that people were asking for?

Ashley Anderson: The primary thing was classes, like what to expect, how to support Mom, not really understanding what happens during pregnancy after birth, not really knowing what to ask during clinic visits and when they go to well-baby visits, and then just resources. You know, sometimes when you have young parent, you know, they might not stay together. They might not be together by the time the baby gets there. And it's, "Well, where do I go to get a formula? It's really expensive. Like, I'm 18! You know, I make 15 bucks an hour. Part time!" You know? So, those were the kind of things that they were looking for.

Cathy Shafran: And so, what have you done as a result of some of these stories and the lack of you being able to offer the care that people were asking for?

Ashley Anderson: So, we've started building out our program, Fathers for Family. We call it a program, but it will function more like a department, something that's comparable to the Maternal Infant Health Program. So, throughout this process, one thing that we've learned is that fathers are actually not part of the standard process of consideration during medical appointments. We're working within our own processes to change this, to make sure we include young men in the conversation as well, so we can address their needs, and help them be well for their families.

Cathy Shafran: So, for the Fathers for Family Program, has it started? And if so, what is it look like, and what are fathers learning?

Ashley Anderson: So, it's coming soon. Right now, we are working on identifying the most sought-after classes, putting some of those in video format, and then other ones will be in person. We are building out a web page that has resources that link to other community organizations. So, if you need some type of legal support, we'll have somewhere for you to go. And that could be what child support. That could be with tickets. I don't know. You can't pick up your baby because, you know, you're driving dirty, as we call it. We will, you know, help you get what you need, so that you can be present for your families, as well as a mentorship program where other fathers in a community choose to walk alongside young fathers, so that they have a support system, you know? Call me if you're up at 3 a.m. and, you know, Mom's asleep and you don't know how to soothe the baby. So, we want to provide that type of mentorship as well.

Cathy Shafran: Will there be actual classes in programming?

Ashley Anderson: Yes.

Cathy Shafran: And what will be the focus of those?

Ashley Anderson: Some of those classes will be things like how to support mom during breastfeeding. If the mother chooses to breastfeed, the fathers can actually play a role in that. They can help support in what do you do, how do you do, to other things about what to look for in a well-child visit. When you take your baby to the doctor, what are the markers that the doctors are looking for? What should you be looking for at home? What kind of information should you be receiving when you're at the doctors, and what do you do with it when you leave? Things about how do you make a bottle? How do you strap in the car seat? Like, the basics that some of us take for granted.

Cathy Shafran: Our On the Ground Ypsi conversation with Concentrate Media's Rylee Barnsdale and Ashley Anderson from Ypsi's Corner Health Center continues on 89.1 WEMU. Ashley, I also want to ask you about the programming for the Stand Out. I believe that's the program that you're calling for assistance for parents who have either transgender or non-binary children who need help.

Ashley Anderson: So, we were approached by Emily Brandt from U of M, a student at U of M, about creating a curriculum for parents of trans youth. So, our Corner Health Center's behavioral health manager Jennifer Schwartz, our health educator, Riley Annear, an intern, and then, of course, Corner staff at large, we began helping develop this program called Stand Out. It's a four-part workshop series for parents of transgender youth. They might have questions or concerns about how to have conversations about identity, understanding the experience of what your child might be going through when you're not around, giving them language to have better conversations with their child, so that their child can experience a safe transition if that's what they choose to continue to do.

Cathy Shafran: And is that program working or it's in the works?

Ashley Anderson: So, we start on March 7th. So, it started yesterday, but it is a virtual workshop series, and a parent can join in at any time. It's on every Tuesday, and you can go to Corner Health Center.org for more information. There will be a flier. There's a flier on the main page for it, so you can register.

Cathy Shafran: So, this is all online. So, it's not necessarily limited to people from Ypsilanti.

Ashley Anderson: Correct. It's not limited to those just in Ypsilanti.

Cathy Shafran: What will happen in these workshops?

Ashley Anderson: So, in the workshops, they will start out with talking about gender and just the terms that are being used, how to use them, and to give them a better understanding of the culture a little bit more. And then, they will start talking about their children in the second workshop, about their experience with their child coming out, or how they responded to their child saying they wanted to transition or that they consider themselves non-binary and what that means. And then, on the third series--workshop series--we're actually having a panel of youth that will come and share with their parents. This is what my experience has been. This is how I'm feeling. This is how I'm treated. This is what I'm struggling with. And then, it will conclude with ways to provide support for your child, how to have healthy conversations, and what we're hoping happens out of this is that parents can actually form a support system amongst one another. And then, if they're expressing, "This was excellent! We need more of this! When are you doing this again?" we will absolutely reproduce this program as many times as needed and its many ways that our need, so that we don't have trans and non-binary youth fighting the world and then going home and having to fight at home too.

Cathy Shafran: Well, it seems that there is a lot going on at the Corner Health Center, and I'm so glad that you were able to join us and let us know what's going on. Ashley Anderson from Ypsilanti Corner Health Center, thank you so much for joining us.

Ashley Anderson: Thank you.

Cathy Shafran: Rylee Barnsdale from Concentrate Media, thank you as well.

Rylee Barnsdale: Thanks, Cathy.

Cathy Shafran: I'm Cathy Shafran and this is 89-1 WEMU FM, Ypsilanti. Public Radio from Eastern Michigan University. And online at WEMU.org.

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Cathy Shafran was WEMU's afternoon news anchor and local host during WEMU's broadcast of NPR's All Things Considered.
Concentrate Media's Rylee Barnsdale is a Michigan native and longtime Washtenaw County resident. She wants to use her journalistic experience from her time at Eastern Michigan University writing for the Eastern Echo to tell the stories of Washtenaw County residents that need to be heard.
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