Serving Teen Parents
William C. Thompson, Jr.
isn’t the typical student, but her situation is distressingly
classmates devoted the waning weeks of summer to stocking up
on supplies and trying on new outfits for back to school, she
had a bigger concern—how she would care for her baby once class
concern is valid because educators need to do more to keep
pregnant and parenting teens in school. These young students
face a constant tug-of-war over balancing schoolwork with the
demands of parenting. And often, it is the time devoted to
study and good attendance that gets sacrificed.
adolescent parents will not return to school this fall. That’s
a shame. As I discussed in my recent report on pregnant and
parenting teens, “Undercounted and Underserved,” the consequences
for them and for New York City are dramatic.
these facts: An estimated 70 percent of adolescent girls who
become pregnant before the age of 18 will drop out. Median
weekly earnings for female high school dropouts are 39 percent
lower than earnings of female high school graduates. Nearly
80 percent of teen mothers must resort to public assistance
fact, across the United States, adolescent parenting costs
taxpayers more than $5 billion annually in lost revenues and
related social services expenses.
are effective programs that reach out to pregnant and parenting
teens before they drop out of school.
New York City public schools have two such programs. There
are four borough-wide Family Centers that provide support services
during pregnancy and the postpartum period, including infant
childcare, to pregnant high school students for an average
of about 18 months, after which the students return to their
former high schools.
the Living For the Young Family Through Education or LYFE program
provides child care on site at 42 public high schools to the
children of students, and offers support services aimed at
teaching parenting skills and helping students juggle their
roles as parents, students and developing adults.
programs are a good start, but they are unable to reach all
who need them. My office has determined that these programs
serve a combined total of no more than 2,000 pregnant and parenting
students each year.
New York City Department of Health and Mental Health records
revealed that, as of the Year 2000, New York City had more
than 20,000 mothers under the age of 21 who had yet to complete
high school. Of these young mothers, 8,000 were age 17 or younger
and are required by law to attend school. Even more alarming
is the fact that only an average of 150 student pregnancies
are recorded each year by the Department of Education under
a policy that requires confidential identification and reporting
of pregnant and parenting students by each City school.
gap between the number of mothers in the City under the age
of 21 who have not finished high school—20,000—and the number
recognized each year by city educators—150—should serve as
a wake-up call.
report found that the Department of Education currently could
not identify who most of these young mothers are and, more
importantly, whether or not they are still in school.
study after study shows, early pregnancy and parenting is a
leading cause of dropout for girls across the country. Dropout
rates in New York City have been on the rise for the past four
years, for girls as well as boys.
best hope is to continue our investments in pregnancy prevention
programs. However, we also must do a better job of identifying
and supporting the young women who are in our schools before
they are lost to the system altogether.
like Beth should not be forced to choose between caring for
a child and getting a diploma. Parenting students need the
full support of the school system so they can finish their
education and build a foundation for their own and their children’s
better serving teen parents, we will protect the City’s long-term
fiscal health, while helping all members of these young families—the
girls themselves, their children and, not incidentally, the
children’s fathers (who often also are high school students
themselves)—achieve their maximum potential.
York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. is Chair of
the Citywide Task Force on Adolescent Pregnancy, Parenting
Update, Inc., P.O. Box 1588, New York, NY 10159.
Tel: (212) 477-5600. Fax: (212) 477-5893. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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