▶ Watch Video: Baltimore program helps single moms and daughters build stronger bonds

Baltimore — On a Saturday morning, a group of mothers and daughters gathered in a roundtable formation with their eyes closed. “Pay attention to how your breath feels,” Ateira Griffin said, leading the group. “Envision something for yourself and for your mother-daughter relationship.”

This exercise in visualizing the future is only the beginning of the growth at BOND, a Baltimore-based nonprofit organization that serves single mothers of color and their daughters. 

Griffin, the founder and CEO of BOND, also grew up in a household where her mother and grandmother were both single mothers. But it wasn’t until she became the dean of students at the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women that she started to notice a trend.

“One of the greatest joys I had was talking to my girls,” Griffin recounted. “They would tell me everything they were going through. All of the ups and downs, the challenges… And I would have to ask them, you know, have you talked to your mother or your maternal figure about this? And the answers I got, they would say, ‘No. We don’t have that kind of relationship. No, I don’t wanna put anything else on her plate. I don’t wanna be a burden.'”

BOND founder and CEO Ateira Griffin with her mother and lead counselor, Alisa Williams

CBS News

On the other hand, mothers started approaching her as well, asking Griffin, “‘Can you help me with my relationship with my daughter?’ … or ‘Can you help me fill out this job application? Can you help me get through the line at the housing department or at social services?'”

“And so these things weighed on me,” Griffin said.

Unable to find an existing program that would help address these multigenerational requests in a holistic way, Griffin launched BOND in 2015 with the help of her own mother and lead counselor, Alisa Williams.

“It’s a lot of fun. It’s interesting. I get to grow with her,” Williams said, adding with a laugh, “and then there’s challenges because I have my own personality. She has her own personality.”

According to the Pew Research Center, the U.S. has the world’s highest rate of children living in single-parent households. For families led by single mothers, it could also mean a higher risk of poverty and added stressors that have a ripple effect on the children.

In addition to mentorship programs that focus on social-emotional needs, BOND also offers a financial wellness curriculum built by and for Black women. Griffin said more than two-thirds of BOND moms have been able to increase their salaries by one tax bracket.

At meetings, mothers like Tyeisha Johnson and her daughter, Akira, find a safe space to be intentional and share goals with one another. 

BOND mother Tyeisha Johnson and her daughter, Akira 

CBS News

“We’ve always had a pretty close relationship because it is just her and I. But as I was going through grad school, I did have to pick up a part-time job. So it was a way that we would have this dedicated time doing specific activities,” Johnson shared. 

“The activities we do together help us get to know each other more. Or just learn new things that we didn’t know before,” Akira added. “I’m proud of her because she works hard… and she tries her best to do everything that she can.”

Griffin said addressing these families’ needs with a multigenerational approach “provides us the opportunity to have exponential impact.”

“One of the biggest things that I see is just this new, open, very clear communication between moms and daughters that also includes language around our emotions and our mental health,” Griffin said. “We don’t have the privilege of just talking about our emotions all the time in the Black community and as Black women.”

Among BOND’s aims is shifting the narrative surrounding single mothers.

“There are so many stereotypes,” Griffin said. “And I’ve seen it broken time and time and time again, from my mom to my grandmother to some of my friends — like they are phenomenal. They are strong. They are some of the most persistent, loving, and giving people I know in my life. And I have so much respect for them. Sorry, I’m getting emotional.”

“Yeah, some of ’em are groundbreakers. They’re just goin’ places,” Williams added.

But to change the conversation, they said it needs to expand beyond the fortitude of these families, making sure that people with these lived experiences are in positions of leadership and power.

“Their voices — it’s what can guide changes to policies like paid leave… We’re talking about housing policies that need to change. Raising the living wage across the nation,” Griffin said. “We need to work on these very specific policies that directly impact single mothers of color. And that is how we also change the narrative.”

With that, BOND hopes to continue the mission of what their name stands for: Building Our Nation’s Daughters.