SAFE keeps teen moms in school
AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBasketball roundup: Sierra Canyon, Birmingham set to face off in tournament quarterfinalsShe is among thousands of teen moms who make California No. 1 in the nation in terms of pregnancy among adolescents, according to the California Department of Health. Approximately 39 percent of pregnant teens are between ages 15 and 17. Only one in five receives financial help from their child’s father, leaving that burden largely to teen mothers and the state. The state provides the California School Age Families Education Program (Cal-SAFE), the most comprehensive and widely used program for teen mothers. It provides funds for on-site childcare and taxi vouchers, while also providing academic and personal support services. “Basically, it removes every excuse for not coming to school,” said Frontier High School Principal Carlye Olsen, a continuation school that offers Cal-SAFE services. “We’ve even gone and bought diapers for them at times.” If not for Cal-SAFE, Parra would have dropped out, she said, adding that without the free childcare and taxi vouchers, she would have had no one to sit for her daughter or take her to school. WHITTIER – Nicole Parra has advice for other teenage girls: Enjoy life first before risking pregnancy, because you are only young once. A mother of a 14-month-old daughter, Parra, 18, speaks from experience about the struggles of being a teen mom trying to finish high school. The Frontier High School senior got pregnant when she was a sophomore, forcing her to juggle changing diapers with writing English essays. “\ wants me to read her a book when I’m trying to do homework,” Parra said. “The hardest part is getting two people ready for school in the morning.” Even so, raising a child while finishing high school remains challenging, she said. “It’s really hard, because I have to get her settled in at the daycare \ before I go to class, and then I have to carry her carseat and all her stuff with me,” said Parra, who lives with her mother. Like most teen mothers, Parra gets no financial help from her daughter’s father, who is in prison. But living with her mother makes finishing school more realistic, she said. For Antoinette Diaz, 18, finishing high school became possible only after she moved out of her mother’s home. She now lives with her grandmother, an environment Diaz says provides more stability. “We moved around too much with my mom,” she said. “If I still lived with my mom, I would have quit already. “It’s hard to do your senior project while taking care of a kid. But my grandma pushes me to finish school,” she added. The free day care Diaz receives helps offset the fact that her daughter’s father is unwilling to help out financially. “No help at all – none,” she said. “None of us get any help from the fathers.” Beyond helping teen mothers with logistical issues, Cal-SAFE teaches parenting skills and provides child development classes. “We have a parenting class that helped to understand how babies think at different stages and how to make them smarter,” Diaz said. “That was cool.” Bill Whitmore, director of curriculum and instruction at Montebello High School, said Cal-SAFE provides on-site childcare services at all three high schools in the Montebello Unified School District. A total of 47 children are served by the program, he added. Seven students at Montebello High and 33 at Bell Gardens High School are enrolled in special “self-contained” classrooms designed for teens who are pregnant. In that program, all classes are taught by one teacher. “We do look at the income of students, and other situations with them, like making sure they are making satisfactory progress in high school,” Whitmore said. “If not, we have steps to support them, with the ultimate step to deny service. “Last year, 93 percent of the teen moms graduated,” he added. Olsen said teen mothers typically have a higher productivity rate than the regular students, which is a statistical way of keeping track of credits earned. “We’ve had a lot of success, as measured by what they’re doing afterwards,” Olsen said. “We look at college entrance rates, no second babies, productivity rate.” Olsen said simply measuring graduation rates is difficult at Frontier because pregnant students are accepted at any age and some are fifth-year seniors. Trisha Strom, 19, said motherhood presented so many barriers to her school success before she entered the Cal-SAFE program that she almost quit. “Oh my goodness, if it wasn’t for the program I wouldn’t be in school,” Strom said. “I was in so much trouble, I would have dropped out. I have no car, no job or childcare, and my mom works. There was no way.” [email protected] (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3029160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!