Meeting Teen-Age Parents’ Long-Term Needs

June 06, 1984 6 min read
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The adolescent-parenting program at Virginia’s Groveton High School, which offers in-school day-care services for the infants of teen-agers who are enrolled in the school’s regular program, represents an “enlightened” strategy for dealing with the problem of young parents, experts say.

“It’s been a gradual evolution,” said Gail L. Zellman, a research psychologist with the Rand Corporation, “all the way from kicking girls out of school, to providing ‘homebound instruction,’ to putting them in isolated programs, to bringing them back to the mainstream of education.”

To date, no one knows how many such programs exist, said Asta-Maria Kenney, an associate for policy development with the Alan Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of Planned Parenthood. “The one thing that we do know is that schools play a larger role than any other agency, but precisely how many schools are doing it, nobody knows.”

Parenting Focus Needed

In April, Phyllis Blaunstein, executive director of the National Association of State Boards of Education, testified before the House Subcommittee on Health and the Environment that the Adolescent Family Life Demonstration Projects Act, which is up for reauthorization this year, “addresses only some portions” of the adolescent parenting problem.

“We are concerned,” Ms. Blaunstein said, “that most of the services provided through these projects are aimed at the period of pregnancy, and that considerably less attention has been devoted to meeting the long-term needs of young parents. This focus on pregnancy reflects the historic emphasis on a different type of service, one aimed at adoption as its main outcome.”

Today, however, most pregnant adolescents who give birth decide to raise their children instead of putting them up for adoption.

The School’s Role

The educational system, Ms. Blaunstein said, “is the institution in the best position to provide the intellectual and vocational skills that these young parents must have in order to succeed.”

But others question how involved the schools should become in solving this larger social problem.

“For the most part, schools neither seek nor want an active role in deal-ing with student pregnancy and parenthood,” Ms. Zellman wrote in a 1981 study, “The Response of the Schools to Teenage Pregnancy and Parenthood.”

“Schools often see programs treating these issues as requiring money and administrative time that ideally should go for other activities,’' she wrote.

“Moreover,” Ms. Zellman added, “these programs often involve schools in such volatile issues as sex education, contraception, and abortion, and they may alarm those who believe schools should avoid issues that traditionally have been the concerns of home and church. Indeed, the very existence of a pregnancy program may serve to impress upon the community the magnitude of the problem and may invite the community to blame the schools for the problem.”

Community-Based Programs

In other communities across the nation, programs for adolescent mothers take different forms.

The Young Parents Program in Newport, R.I., for example, funded through the State Department of Health, serves as a broker for services already available in the community. Working closely with school officials and guidance counselors, the service providers identify students who need services and ensure that they receive them. In its first three years of operation, said Agnes Curtis, the project’s founder, 80 percent of the 200 teen-agers served completed their high-school education.

A similar community-based program, Project Redirection in South Bronx, N.Y., also works closely with the schools in providing counseling services to pregnant teen-agers in such areas as employability, life-management skills, parenting, child development, human sexuality, vocational education, and employment placement. “We basically network and utilize existing services,” said Linda Boyland, the director.

Project Redirection is supported by The Ford Foundation, the Human Resources Administration of New York, the y.m.c.a. of Greater New York, and the Manpower Demonstration Research Corp., Ms. Boyland said.

Funding Sources

According to the 1979-80 report, “Services for Pregnant Teenagers in the Large Cities of the United States, 1970-1980,” funding for special programs for teen-age parents was reported as mostly governmental--federal, state, or local. The most frequent sources of funding were: Elementary and Secondary Education Act; Title V of the Social Security Act (Maternal and Child Health); Title XX of the Social Security Act (Social Services); Title XIX of the Social Security Act (Medicaid); and Title X of the Public Health Service Act (Family Planning).

State and local funds, according to the study conducted by Helen M. Wallace, John Weeks, and Antonio Medina, “are preponderantly from departments of education.”

Resources Available

The following books are available from The Resource Center on Sex Equity, Council of Chief State School Officers, 379 Hall of the States, 400 North Capitol St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001.

A Look at Funding for Services and Programs for Pregnant and Parenting Adolescents, $3.00.

Teenage Pregnancy and Parenting: Evaluating School Policies and Programs From a Sex Equity Perspective, $4.50.

A limited number of copies of the following publications are available from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, 1200 Mott Foundation Building, Flint, Mich. 48502. The reports were compiled by Kristin A. Moore, a consultant with the Urban Institute, under a grant from the Mott Foundation.

“Adolescent Parents: Federal Programs and Policies";

“Teenage Parents and Teens at Risk of Pregnancy: Federal Welfare, Social Services, and Related Programs to Serve Adolescents";

“Adolescent Pregnancy and Motherhood: An Inventory of Federal Health, Nutrition, and Related Programs to Serve Teens";

“Adolescent Pregnancy: An Inventory of Relevant Federal Programs and Policies"; and

“School-Age Parents: Federal Programs and Policies Relevant to Pregnant or Parenting Secondary Students.”

“School-Age Parents,” is also available through the Urban Institute. To receive a copy of the report, send $4 to: The Library Information Clearing House, The Urban Institute, P.O. Box 7273, Department C, Washington, D.C. 20044. For information concerning the availability of the four other reports by Ms. Moore, call Susan Dow at the institute at: (202) 857-8508.

“Helping Pregnant Adolescents: Outcomes and Costs of Service Delivery; Final Report on the Evaluation of Adolescent Pregnancy Programs” is also available through the Urban Institute, for $12.50. It analyzes programs funded through the Office of Adolescent Pregnancy Programs of the Department of Health and Human Services:

Recently, six parenthood-education and child-development programs from a group of 79 across the country were selected as “exemplary” in a special project co-sponsored by the American Vocational Association and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The features of the award-winning programs will be discussed in a series of workshops for educators planned as the second phase of The Parenthood/Child Development Curriculum Dissemination Project of the ava and Kellogg.

For further information, write: Diane R. Halbrook, American Vocational Association, 2020 North 14th St., Arlington, Va. 22201, or call (703) 522-6121.--lck

A version of this article appeared in the June 06, 1984 edition of Education Week as Meeting Teen-Age Parents’ Long-Term Needs


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