Academic journal article Journal of School Health

Promising Outcomes in Teen Mothers Enrolled in a School-Based Parent Support Program and Child Care Center

Academic journal article Journal of School Health

Promising Outcomes in Teen Mothers Enrolled in a School-Based Parent Support Program and Child Care Center

Article excerpt

Teen mothers, who become pregnant and deliver infants while still attending high school, represent a complex and challenging group of families. Although teen pregnancy rates are declining, almost one-half million adolescent women give birth each year in the United States. (1) While many teen mothers have multiple poverty-related and academic difficulties that predate their childbearing, it is becoming clear that there are improved outcomes for both teen mothers and their children if the young mothers are able to remain in school and complete their high school education, which places them in a better position to prepare for college, specialized training, or employment. (2,3) Teen mothers who are able to remain connected to their high schools have fewer subsequent births during adolescence, better long-term economic outcomes for their family, and better behavioral, social, and academic development of their children. (4) For teen mothers who try to attend high school classes, infant and toddler child care often is a major determining factor in their success or failure. School-based comprehensive programs that offer dual generational models include essential services for both young parent and child simultaneously. School-based parent support programs with on-site child care centers are not widely evaluated or reported in the literature. Our paper describes key components of the transition to parenthood among adolescent mothers and reports a descriptive evaluation of maternal and child outcomes for a school-based multiservice parent support and child care center located in an urban high school.

The Dilemma of Child Care for Adolescent Mothers

High-quality school-based parent support and child care centers provide parenting knowledge, support, and behavioral (parenting) modeling for teen parents, and safe developmentally stimulating care for their children. (5) This type of program serves both generations (young mother and young child) by providing social support, a source of accomplishment for mothers (which may help buffer depression), safe child care, a learning environment for children, modeling of positive mothering skills, high school drop-out prevention, and skilled and caring adult mentors who help young mothers stay organized about their own health care and needs as well as those of their child. (6,7) There are limited, and mostly anecdotal, reports of the structure and outcomes of school-based child care centers, and it is not clear how many school-based child care centers exist. (5,8) Earlier studies from centers in operation during the late 1970s and early 1980s reported positive outcomes for children and mothers with respect to school performance and completion, and the ability of the family to become economically self-supporting. (9)

Longitudinal multisite studies of child care sponsored by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) have found many important benefits of high-quality infant and child care centers, especially for children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. (10,11) While the NICHD study excluded mothers less than 18 years of age, the more recent findings from the Early Head Start home visiting and child care center programs with teen mothers have begun to show promising outcomes with respect to maternal school attendance and child development. (12)

Evaluations of programs such as the New Chance and the Teenage Parent Demonstration projects have been conducted at several sites with specialized child care and parenting support programs for adolescent mothers. (6) However, the majority of these programs were designed for mothers who had already dropped out of school and needed to be reengaged in the educational and job-training system. Some positive parenting and child-related outcomes have been reported for various supportive programs that aim to provide instruction for graduate equivalency degrees, and teach parenting and job skills to teen mothers who have dropped out of school, but the results have not been overwhelmingly positive. …

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