Students who become parents while they're still in school face a much higher chance of dropping out before graduation. To combat this trend, a growing number of schools have set up day care services on site where the students' children are looked after while their parents concentrate on their studies elsewhere in the building.
Although the number of teen pregnancies continue a two-decade long decline, the odds that teen parents complete their education haven't improved at all. Thus, on-site daycare at schools means that they get much needed assistance as they work towards earning their high school diplomas.
The investment appears to be worthwhile for both parents and their children, as those who complete high school are less likely to remain and raise their kids in poverty than those who drop out prior to graduating. In addition, the daycare centers offer better early childhood development opportunities than the parents are likely to find elsewhere.
A number of such day care centers are now in operation all over the Washington area, along with Detroit, Michigan, Worcester, Massachusetts and Portland, Oregon.
Some teen parents in Arlington County, who are referred by social services and school counselors, are moved off campus to a county building where they learn parenting skills and earn a high school diploma.
Most of the nursery programs care for about 10 children while their parents attend classes.
As part of the requirements for participation in the day care program, parents are asked to take a teen parenting class also offered at the school. The classes teach coping techniques that help students dealing with unique challenges of being young parents. Projects undertaken in class – like making collages representing what their lives might look like down the road – also allow students to map more promising futures after high school graduation.
It is critical to help young mothers stay in school, get their degrees and achieve their goals for the future," said Bill Albert, a spokesman for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. "One of the ways to do that is to provide the assistance where they need it most."
Critics of similar programs say that these kinds of services work to promote early sexual activity and promiscuity among students, but Maxine Thompson-Burroughs, who operates the Early Head Start program at Northwestern, discounts such claims. She said that people who say that completely misunderstand the point of the program – which is not to provide a babysitting service, but to create an environment specifically geared towards getting young parents into a graduation cap and gown.