SHIFT NC

For Young Parents

Being a teen is tough. So is being a parent. If you’re doing both at the same time, you have to face some pretty unique challenges.

As a teen parent – whether you’re a mom or a dad – you are now in charge of raising a happy, healthy child, all while figuring out school, work, your future, and teenage life. On top of that, you have to deal with a lot of negativity: people might act like you can’t succeed or like you’re just a reality TV character. That's not fair, and it doesn’t do your life justice.

The statistics might not be in your favor. However, with the right support:

  • You can be a great parent
  • You can meet your goals

Every teen parent has a different path and different challenges. We can’t answer all your questions here, but we can help you understand your basic rights and point you to people who can help.

For more detailed information on any of these topics, visit our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for Teen Parents

Your Education Rights

The Basics

The law is on your side! It’s covered under Title IX, the same law that says girls can play sports.

If you’re pregnant or parenting, your school must allow you to:

  • Go to school
  • Participate in extracurricular activities
  • Access the same quality of classes as anyone else

Your school system can’t make you go to an alternative school if you don’t want to.

For more detailed information on any of these topics, visit our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for Teen Parents.

Medical Leave from School

Your school is required to treat the school you miss for childbirth and recovery as an excused absence. Your school will need to work with you to help you make up any missed work.

Schools are also required to treat the time you need to take to care for a sick child as an excused absence.

For any medical leave, the school can require a doctor’s note. If your school denies your leave, you can appeal it.

Who to Contact If You Need Help

Your school guidance counselor may be the easiest person to talk to since you can see him or her during the school day.

In addition, every school system has a staff person who is designated as the Title IX (nine) coordinator. The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (DPI) keeps a list of local Title IX coordinators on its website or you can simply call your school system’s administrative office and ask for the Title IX Coordinator.

You can learn more about Title IX on the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s Title IX Webpage

If you need additional resources, the National Women's Law Center has a special page of resources For Pregnant and Parenting Students

Getting the Support You Need

One thing really successful teen parents all seem to have in common is a strong support system. Support comes in many forms. For you it might be a family member, a local group for young parents, public assistance, or a crew of helpful friends.

Remember, all parents need help at some point and finding the help you need is one of the marks of a strong parent!

For more detailed information on any of these topics, visit our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for Teen Parents.

Finding Child Care

You will need to find someone to watch your child during the school day so you can make it to graduation. Some parents have a family member who can help, but many will rely on professional child care.

Like any expectant parent, start researching your options as soon as possible. You will need to consider practical things like cost and transportation.

Depending on your county, you may be eligible for child care subsidies to help pay for child care if you’re in school or working. The FAQs describe how to find out in more detail.

Finding Support Groups

North Carolina has many great programs to help teen parents build a network of peer support. See if your county has one of the following options:

You can also talk to your local Smart Start Partnership or local Health Department to see if they have a program for teen parents. Some good ones include Circle of Parents, Parents as Teachers, or Nurse-Family Partnership.

Making Ends Meet

Making ends meet can be tough for any parent. In the long term, you have a greater shot at a financially healthy future if you can stay in school and get a degree.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF – pronounced “tan-if”) is a public assistance program that has special rules for teen parents. Low-income teen parents who are in school and meet certain other requirements can qualify. If you need them, you might also qualify for WIC, SNAP (food stamps), or child support.

The rules for receiving different kinds of assistance can get complicated. Check the FAQs to see more details.

Staying Healthy – And Avoiding Another Pregnancy

When people talk about the risks of being a teen parent, they usually talk about whether or not you’ll finish school or be a good parent. Here’s what they won’t always talk about:

The single biggest risk factor for any teen getting pregnant or causing a pregnancy is already being a parent.

In fact, in North Carolina, almost 30% of the teen girls who get pregnant each year have been pregnant before.

Why is this the case? It’s complex, but some of the reasons are:

  • You may never have gotten effective sex education
  • Accessing medical care to get contraception is even more challenging when you have a kid to take care of
  • You might feel like people have given up on you and like protecting yourself isn’t as important (Not true, btw!)

Our Resource page For Teens has a great section on your rights to sex education and confidential medical care. Also, you can use our Clinic Locator Tool to find somewhere close to get testing, exams, or birth control if you need them. 

 

For more detailed information on any of the topics discussed on this page, visit our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for Teen Parents.