In recent years, there’s been lots of talk about abortion, abortion restrictions, and the impact of this on mothers. But there has been less discussion about what it actually looks like to support mothers who do choose to parent. And yet, some high schools across the country are doing just that.
One example is the South Bend School Age Mothers Program, which is run through the local public school, the South Bend School Corporation. It’s open to any pregnant student in grades 7 – 12 who is enrolled in the South Bend school system and receives a referral from their home school. The program has been running for nearly 50 years and has served hundreds of students during that time. They show us what it looks like to support teen moms.
An incredibly important aspect of this program is free, on-site daycare for children. Childcare is a primary stumbling block for teenage mothers who want to continue their education. Without having reliable and affordable childcare, many mothers need to drop out of school in order to care for their children. Providing this on-site daycare relieves a huge burden for teen moms, enabling them to focus on their studies while knowing that their children are just down the hallway. Through a partnership with early Headstart, mothers can bring their children to school with them. And because the daycare is on-site, students can leave class to breastfeed their children if they want to.
Transportation for Both Moms and Children
The school district provides transportation through the South Bend schools bussing system for both the moms and the children to get them to and from the school and daycare. This is important structural support for mothers so they do not have to worry about having access to a car in order to continue their education.
Shorter School Days
Recognizing that students who are also mothers have more responsibilities than the average student, the school day is shortened so that they can attend to all of these different responsibilities.
Free Breakfast and Lunch
Because the program provides nutritious meals for two out of three meals of the day, mothers can focus on their studies without worrying about packing or providing a meal for both themselves and their child. This also frees up time and energy so that moms can focus on their other numerous education and caregiving responsibilities.
Child Development Classes
Each semester, one of the classes offered through the school is a child development class. This gives students the ability to learn hands-on, practical information that applies to their daily life as moms, in addition to the academic information that comes in a traditional school setting.
High Graduation Rates
Teen mothers who go through this program have a 95% chance of graduating high school. Contrast this with the fact that only about 50% of teenage mothers graduate from high school, and you can see how a concrete structure of support has a huge impact on the lives of teen mothers and their children.
This program is just one across the country that is specifically targeted to help teenage mothers. The impacts of it are undeniable. So, what is stopping more school districts from implementing programs like this? What does support for teenage mothers look like in your area? Each of us has an opportunity to advocate for programs like this in our local communities and support moms in a tangible way.