The statistics regarding teen parents can be startling and paint a poor picture for the future life of, not just the teen parent, but also for the child born to teen parents. Current statistics reveal:
- Adolescents who become mothers tend to exhibit poorer psychological functioning, lower levels of educational attainment and high school completion, more single parenthood, and less stable employment than those with similar background who postpone childbirth.
- 70% of teen mothers drop out of high school, making pregnancy the primary reason young women drop out early. Only 30% of teen mothers complete high school by age 30, compared to 76% of women who delay parenthood until age 21 or older.
- Teen mothers tend to experience more pregnancy-related problems and have less healthy infants.
- Fathers to children of teen mothers, whether teenaged or older themselves, tend to start with low educational attainment and low incomes, and to live in low-income communities. As a result of early parenthood, these fathers are likely to work and earn more initially.
- Preschool children of teen mothers tend to show more behavior problems and more aggressive behavior than children of older mothers, while adolescent children of teen mothers experience high rates of grade failure, delinquency, and early sexual activity.
- The current annual net costs to taxpayers of births to teen mothers in California are estimated to be $1.7 billion, and current annual total net costs to society run $3.8 billion
A program designed to combat these statistics is California School Age Families Education or Cal-SAFE. Cal-SAFE provides a public education alternative for students who are pregnant or parenting and may otherwise drop out of school. Legally, pregnant students have a right to attend their district of residence, but many students feel stigmatized because of the pregnancy. The Cal-SAFE program serves both male and female students in a comprehensive, integrated, community-linked school-based program, which meets 5 days a week.
The goals of the Cal-SAFE program are to assist students in earning a high school diploma, prepare them for college and/or a vocation, to develop positive parenting skills, to provide a safe and healthy environment for the infant/toddlers, to provide a positive role model, and to encourage the healthy development of the children.
Tuolumne County students who are expecting a baby, and/or the baby’s father, who have not graduated from high school and are 18 years old or younger may participate in the Cal-SAFE program. Students enrolled in the program who turn 19 may continue until the semester after their 19th birthday. Students in the program not only receive instruction in the academic curriculum of their peers, but also in family education and child development.
The graduation rate of the Tuolumne County Cal-SAFE program is higher than the state average for traditional high school. The Cal-SAFE teacher and her community partners are not just changing statistics, but turning lost opportunity into new opportunity and changing the future for parenting teens and their children.