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Teenage-Parent Program Called Underutilized, Ill-Monitored

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A New York City program that of fers social services to teenage parents and day care for their children is underenrolled and inadequately monitored, according to one of the city's oldest children's advocacy groups.

The "LYFE" program--short for Living for the Young Family through Ed ucation--offers support services for teenage parents pursuing high-school diplomas and provides day care to their children--age 2 months to 2 years, 9 months--usually at the school.

The program, which serves some 500 teenagers and their children at 23 high schools, was established in 1982 and is funded by the New York City Board of Education and the Human Resources Administration.

According to the Citizens' Committee for Children of New York, a non profit advocacy group established in 1944 that focuses on poor children and families, LYFE is "on the whole providing quality services," such as school-based health services, social workers, home study, vocational and remedial education, day care, and parenting instruction.

But the group's report said that serare uneven among sites and that efforts to monitor enrollment, recruit participants, and draw parents back to school are "inadequate."

"Many of the sites are providing excellent, critical services--there are simply not enough," said Donna Meeks, the committee's staff associate for education.

The program, she noted, falls far short of reaching the 13,000 New York City teenagers who give birth each year, two-thirds of whom have yet to finish high school and at least 3,000 of whom drop out.

The committee issued the report jointly with the Roosevelt Institute, a private foundation that underwrites education projects and has launched a parenting program at the Bronx Regional High School.

Ms. Meeks said most schools do not attempt to identify their parenting teenagers or to actively recruit them into LYFE, relying instead on "self-identification" or word of mouth.

While many of the sites were fully enrolled and had waiting lists, 43 per cent had two or more open slots at the time of the survey.

The report also said LYFE participants' progress and school completion is not uniformly tracked, making it difficult to "measure the remedial or other needs of its students" or evaluate the program's success.

It also noted that home-study pro grams that would allow teenage parents to remain in school--while offered to those attending a school for pregnant students--are seldom available to students at traditional schools. Comprehensive high schools often do not grant credit for work completed in the weeks prior to leav ing school to give birth, it added.

The report also said remedial and vocational education and on-site day care are not offered at every site; parent counseling and referral services are restricted to those with children enrolled in day care; and the depth of parenting instruction varies widely.

LYFE sites, it added, are "inconsistent" in offering family-planning counseling and support to parents, and up to half are not fully staffed with social and family workers.

The report recommended that the board of education establish an office to coordinate and track all services for pregnant and parenting teenagers. The office would track the rate of pregnancy and parenting; refer stu dents for services; monitor their enrollment, progress, and dropout rate; and launch efforts to attract pregnant or parenting dropouts back to school.

The report also recommended:

Making home study available to all postpartum students;

Extending "point-based credit" systems to pregnant students in traditional schools;

Incorporating LYFE more fully into schools' total program; and

Coordinating day-care efforts with other community providers.

The report also advises the LYFE central office to develop and refine its goals and standards and urges that all programs maintain full social-ser vices staffs; offer family-planning counseling to LYFE students; beef up remedial and vocational services; and update parenting curricula.

Copies of "For a Better LYFE" are available for $7.50 each from the Citizens' Committee for Children of New York, 105 East 22nd St., New York, N.Y. 10010-5413.

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