News 18 Investigates: Pregnant and parenting in high school

WLFI File Photo
WLFI File Photo

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — The life of a modern teenager may seem more complicated than ever before, but try adding a baby to the equation.

Jefferson High School counselor Lauren Lafayette said she’s seen the impact of juggling a child and high school.

“They often come [to school] getting only four hours of sleep a night because their baby didn’t sleep through the night, and they have a test the next day,” Lafayette said.

However, a program called Teen Parent Initiative is helping teens balance it all.

“I haven’t heard of another program like this in the state and so to give them the opportunity to earn the same amount of credits that their peers are earning, while staying on track for graduation is a great opportunity that I think every school should have,” said Lafayette.

The program allows teen moms to drop their children off at a day care at the Durgan building — giving them peace of mind while they are going to school across the street.

“As a teenager, they’re still developing themselves,” Teen Parent Initiative coordinator Miranda Hutcheson said. “I think that’s an important aspect is to give them those opportunities.”

Hutcheson said students enrolled in the program not only get access to child care, their children become part of the curriculum in the lab at Durgan.

“It could be on maybe holding an infant,” said Hutcheson. “For example, if it’s a child development class then they might go over and talk about actually how to place an infant in their arms and an appropriate way to support their head or any kind of actually applicable lesson.”

But, that’s not all they’re learning.

“Part of the curriculum that students study would include birth control,” explained Hutcheson. “It would also include any child development pieces. So, from pregnancy on … educating them about the entire process and then development of the child as well.”

The program also teaches students what’s available to them outside the classroom.

“We are educating the parents on resources that are available within the community and being able to access those,” said Hutcheson.

Lafayette said the students also learn from each other.

“There’s also a bond that happens in the program between all the girls,” said Lafayette. “They really become good friends as they sort of walk through this journey together, and talk about the struggles, and the celebration and the joys that happen in motherhood.”

The teens serve as examples of the responsibility that comes with becoming a mom at a young age.

“The friends of the girls in the program obviously see the struggles that the teen mom is going through so that itself is a lesson for them,” said Lafayette.

Wednesday at 6 p.m., News 18 will take a look at some other resources in the community available for teen parents.