A new qualitative report shows that the two teen parent programs we fund help students to become more confident, independent, and capable of completing their education and pursuing careers.
For over a decade, we’ve funded counseling and education programs for teen parents at Crossroads High School in Concord. The YMCA of the East Bay provides similar services for teen parents in West County. The new report highlights interviews conducted with students and staff at Crossroads and Richmond High School, and provides an overview of teens’ challenges and successes.
Both teens and staff members reported that financial stress is the most common challenge teens face. Their dire financial situation is further complicated by social stressors and unhealthy environments. As one young mother said:
I wake up in the morning at 5:00 a.m. I take care of my baby, attend to her basic needs as well as mine. I wait for a bus to get to school. Then, after school I drop my child with a friend so that she can take care of him, then go to work, and finish work at 10:30 p.m. I get home, give my baby and myself a shower and sleep at 2 a.m. as my baby is cranky being away from me. I get up again at 5:00 a.m. This is my routine daily. I feel so tired all the time.
In addition to encouraging teens to build strong social networks, the programs provide supports, from baby supplies to counseling or tutoring. Teens reported feeling accepted and supported by the school programs, while staff indicated that the education and opportunities provided to students in the program helped the teens feel empowered to make positive changes in their lives.
The teens interviewed reported that the program teaches them valuable skills to support their child. In their child development classes, for instance, participants reported learning how to feed their baby (including how to add vegetables and fruits into babies’ food), what to do (and not do) when the baby is sick and how to calm a distressed baby.
Teens also described feeling better prepared for the future and more resilient in the face of hardship after going through the program. They shared that, over the course of the year, they began to find motherhood fulfilling and enjoyable. Each of the teens expressed confidence in their ability to be successful in life and that this was possible thanks to the YMCA and Crossroads programs:
Initially, I had only my mom to support me. No one believed I could graduate, sometimes even myself! Now, things have changed after I have graduated.
Last year, 56 of the participating teen mothers graduated from high school.