Kids Having Kids: Graduating with a baby - Part 2


Experts say teen pregnancy rates are on the decline, yet statistics show that 30 percent of teenage women are getting pregnant.

The majority of teen moms are in middle or high school.

One school in Elkhart offers a program to help these moms stay in school while taking care of their child.

On her first day of freshman year at Elkhart Central High School, America Martinez, 15, took on a heavy load beyond her classes.

“I know from here until I graduate it’s going to be really hard,” says the sophomore. “My mom told me that a lot of people do drop out of school once they have their babies, but I didn't want to do that, and I was really thankful that I don't have to do that.”

She’s thankful because at three months pregnant she was placed in Elkhart Central High's "Child Central" program, a daycare for pregnant students.

“If it's really hard for them -- and it typically is -- then we are just a way they can stay in school and graduate,” says the program’s coordinator Barbara VanWechel.

If possible, moms take a class on prenatal care before they have the baby, but not everything goes as planned.

For example, mom Claudia Morales found out she was pregnant after six months.

“I had no clue for six months that I had a baby inside of me, so when I did find out I was scared,” she remembers.

The 16-year-old was scared and unprepared, not knowing how her life would change once Jayden was born.

“It’s so different being a teen, and being a teen mom,” she says.

Without the center, Morales says she would have dropped out with only a year of high school completed.

“Babysitters... they're money, they cost money, and if I don't have a job then I can't pay a babysitter,” she explains.

At the center, Vanwechel only asks that the students stay in school and get good grades to qualify. “It’s really kind of special that Elkhart Community Schools thought a long time ago, 'How can we best help some of these students to be able to graduate from high school.'”

Morales agrees, “It’s good that I have this place to help me with Jayden because my mom works, my dad works, and nobody else would be able to take care of him if it wasn't for the daycare here.”

It's no secret that teen moms have a harder time finishing high school.

According to the CDC only 50 percent of teen mothers receive a high school diploma.

Plus, children of teen mothers face more health problems, higher chances of dropping out, being arrested and also giving birth as teens just like their mothers.

Now a year later, America is a sophomore. Her daughter, Gabby, is cared for as a toddler in the school’s program. By the time America graduates, she'll be four. Thankfully, this straight 'A' student will at least walk away with a diploma.

“It’s very helpful because they take care of her. I don't have to worry about her, and it’s easy because I can bring her in the morning and I don't have to worry about her during the day,” says the teen.

At one of the other larger school districts in our area, teen moms in South Bend can go to Lafayette School before and after the pregnancy.

The program is similar to Elkhart Central's, where they educate the moms about prenatal care and help take care of the children during the day while school is in session.

At Elkhart Central there's always a waiting list for the daycare program because of the need.

Unfortunately not all of the schools in Michiana offer daycare programs. It's only available in some of the larger school districts.

Coming up Thursday night Just Before Six, we'll take a look at some of the area resources available for pregnant teens and see how one woman is beating the odds thanks to the community's help.


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