Best Practices for Working With Teen Parents and Their Children

Provide alternative or enhanced education opportunities

  • entry diagnostic testing, academic education and high school equivalency classes
  • occupational exploration, vocational training and work experience opportunities
  • meals, housing, medical care, counseling, and related support services
  • post-program placement and support for students.
  • provide flexible school environments with features like self-contained classrooms, flexible hours, year-round schedules and credit for partial semesters
  • develop re-entry strategies for teens who have dropped-out of school
  • parenting and life skills education which is culturally and linguistically appropriate

Focus on improving child outcomes

  • home visits, parenting education, screening
  • referrals to other social service agencies
  • collaboration between school and community agencies
  • child care which is affordable, accessible, and flexible and provides for family involvement and positive cultural identity and affirmation
  • quality child development programs

Provide quality health care

  • ensure access to pre-natal care
  • access to family planning services to postpone subsequent pregnancies
  • preventive health care, developmental screens and links to appropriate follow-up health care
  • help families access WIC and track childrens receipt of immunizations

Engage the fathers

  • provide outreach and advocacy to fathers (counseling, support, legal advice)
  • develop separate programs for fathers which include curricula to prepare young men for responsible fatherhood and assistance in establishing paternity
  • engage fathers early in the pregnancy
  • help fathers gain employment

Include the individual, family, school, and community in the design of interventions

  • include each sector in developing a plan for the teen parent
  • respect the role of the grandmother (of the baby) and work to resolve any conflicts between the mother and grandmother
  • include siblings of teen parents in programming
  • include recreational activities and peer support as part of all activities for young parents, their children and their families

Involve the community and community agencies

  • provide a comprehensive array of services including transportation, case management, and transition to post-secondary education or employment
  • use a local planning council and/or advisory council which consists of government and non-profit agencies, schools, businesses and parents to assess needs, modify existing programs and provide grassroots support for programs
  • employers adapt family-friendly policies such as flexible work schedules and subsidized and/or on-site child care
  • help the larger community understand teen parent programs and how they address other pressing community problems
  • engage community institutions in providing non-financial incentives such as token gifts, trips or awards for such activities as job training, school attendance, etc.

Ensure flexibility to pursue strategies that work

  • use multiple strategies to address the diversity of needs of teens
  • use age-appropriate strategies
  • tailor strategies to the experience of the individual
  • provide a continuum of services
  • provide culturally relevant services which build on an individuals strengths and acknowledge and affirm cultural identity, values and beliefs

Employ well-trained staff and give them reasonable workloads

  • provide staff training and on-going professional development
  • give staff reasonable caseloads
  • provide teens with caring adults who are mentors and advocates
  • ensure that staff are sensitive to the needs of teen parents

Ensure a safe, nurturing, and structured living environment

  • guard against requiring teen parents to live in settings where they may have experience sexual or physical abuse

Serving Teen Parents in a Welfare Reform Environment, National Governors Association, 1997

School-Based Programs for Adolescent Parents and Their Children: Overcoming Barriers and Challenges to Implementing Comprehensive School-Based Services, Center for Assessment and Policy Development, 1994

School-Based Programs for Adolescent Parents and Their Children: Guidelines for Quality and Best Practice, Center for Assessment and Policy Development, 1996