Located at Franklin High School, this playground belongs to the Albina Head Start program. This program, partnered with Teen Parent Services, fosters a more equitable setting for teen parents. Photo by Isabella Smejtek

As in person learning begins, there are questions as to whether or not the Albina Early Head Start program will be opening their in school services to the teen parent student body. The short answer is yes. As an integral part of the Franklin community, located in the main hall of the school, Albina Early Head Start partners with Teen Parent Services to support teen parents in navigating pregnancy and early parenthood, while also supporting them throughout the rest of high school and through graduation. 

Albina Early Head Start is a non-profit organization that was created in 1965 as a way to empower teen parents to ensure their pathway to graduation, providing on-site childcare support at Franklin, McDaniel, and Roosevelt High Schools. This program allows teen parents to drop their children off before school, eat lunch with them, and then pick them up later once the school day is finished, while being assured that their children are in good hands. The childcare center is open from 7:30am to 5pm, Monday through Friday, allowing teen parents to have care for their children even after the school day is finished. This allows parents to participate in some sports or extracurricular activities, if they would like. 

Teen Parent Services, a partner of Albina Early Head Start, provides virtual, non-childcare support throughout a student’s full pregnancy, delivery, re-entry into school and the process after re-entry. One aspect of this support is home instruction for the first six weeks after birth, which is the student equivalent of “maternity leave.” The goal of home instruction is to make sure that students are able to graduate from high school, receive their diploma, and get any other academic help they may need while caring for their child. Each student gets paired with a home advisor who works with both the student and their teachers to facilitate communication and to ensure that school work is being received on both ends. The student’s advisor does this by making sure that work gets from teacher to student and vice versa. The advisor will proctor tests, help with post-high school planning, help to set a schedule for staying organized and on track, provide tutoring, and get students in contact with any other professionals who may be able to provide them more support, as needed. 

The support systems of Teen Parent Services and Albina work towards ensuring that high schools are promoting student equity. Student equity ensures all students are provided with the access to any resources they need to succeed in school, without any discrimination on the basis of race, sex, socio-economic class, family situation, religion, or personal current situation, like pregnancy or parenthood. Head Start is a safe place for student parents to get the help and support they need, and to make sure that they feel included and feel like they belong in their school space.

When talking to Franklin High School’s Climate and Equity Coach, Julie Palmer, she touched on this issue, saying, “I don’t think getting pregnant, or being a parent should mean that you can’t go to high school. We need to be prepared to support students and the people who are either parents or soon to be parents […] if you don’t have a team, parent advocate, and you don’t have some of these other things in place, then exclusion is the norm, and with that exclusion during that time comes increased mental health issues like depression, and a delay in completing high school and receiving a high school diploma.” 

In the context of support for teen parents, teen fathers are often left out of the equation. There are the assumptions that teen fathers will not want to be involved in their child’s life, that they don’t care, or that they will not be sticking around for long if they do at all. These assumptions cause harm to the teen father community, leaving them to feel less supported and feel as though they have fewer resources. This is an issue that Teen Parent Services is attempting to address. 

In the conversation with Palmer, she also brought this issue up, saying, “I think a lot of these programs were developed solely around moms, and one of the things that I’ve been really impressed about with the Portland Teen Parent program is they are very intentional about supporting dads, as well.” 

As part of their mission to ensure equity, Teen Parent Services has partnered with Squires Empowering Teen Dads to provide resources for teen dads, like male mentorship, individual and small group support, and access to the resources and information that teen mothers do. Along with this, Head Start provides similar on-site support for all teen parents, regardless of whether they are the mother or the father.

The question that is being asked now is “will the childcare support from Albina Early Head Start at Franklin High School be operational in person this year?” As with everything else, COVID-19 threw a curveball for the Albina Early Head Start program. Support that was historically in-person based within a high school, could no longer operate out of Franklin during the many months of the pandemic to date. With safety precautions put in place, and plans for re-entry of children, the Head Start program plans to reopen at Franklin High School in October, 2021. 

For Franklin and any other Portland Public Schools students, to find more information about Teen Parent Services, Albina Early Head Start, or SQUIRES Empowering Teen Dads, visit the PPS Teen Parent Services site or each program’s personal site for more information.

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