As teenagers grow into adults, they learn how to become independent and take care of themselves. But some teenagers are tasked with not only learning how to take care of themselves, but a baby as well.
According to a report published in April of this year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are nine times as many teen mothers in the United States than in other developed nations. Between 2009 and 2010, there were about 34 births per 1,000 young women between the ages of 15 and 19.
Getting good grades while taking care of an infant can be tough. And if the parent is holding down a job as well, it can feel downright impossible. According to the CDC’s report, only 50 percent of teenage mothers will receive their high school diploma by age 22. Studies by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy show that only two percent of young mothers obtain a college degree by age 30.
When a young parent is unable to graduate, chances are she and her children will fall into an abysmal cycle of poverty. Most jobs that pay a living wage require a high school diploma. Parents without a diploma find it difficult to provide for their children, and have to make big sacrifices to stay afloat financially. This could mean anything from not being able to afford recreational activities for their children to not having a safe place to call home.
Across our network, Communities In Schools affiliates give young parents everything they and their children need – not the least of which is hope. When 16-year-old Ashlin found herself without the financial resources to care for her baby, Communities In Schools of South Carolina Site Coordinator Kit Fox was able to get her diapers, food and even toys. He also made sure the young woman’s emotional needs were met by providing supportive guidance on topics such as goal setting, anger management and conflict resolution. Communities In Schools of Philadelphia provided Rasheedah Phillips with counseling when she had her daughter at age 14. They also gave Rasheedah the tools she needed to graduate, including a career training program geared towards teen parents. Today, Rasheedah is a successful lawyer.
Communities In Schools is also dedicated to preventing teen pregnancy. In Austin, Communities In Schools of Central Texas works with community partners to lead a group called “Girls’ Healthy Choices.” The group meets on a regular basis to help young women navigate growing up and making the right choices in life. Many other prevention programs exist throughout the Communities In Schools network.
One of the most effective ways to break the cycle of poverty is to keep young parents from dropping out of high school. It’s a difficult path to follow, but with the care and support Communities In Schools offers, teen parents can attain a high school diploma and even pursue post-secondary education. And they can create bright futures for their children.