Every year, 200,000 teen girls give birth in the U.S., but what about the other half of the equation – the 200,000 fathers? Unfortunately, only about 25 percent of fathers under 18 stick around to help raise the child. When you consider that 70% of teen moms don’t graduate – it’s not hard to understand why.
One teen dad, Ricky C., 19, takes his role seriously and is actively parenting his child and bringing his young son to school with him. “They have a crib, so I can put him down for a nap if I need to,” he said. “And sometimes if he gets fussy, my teacher or other students will help me out. I’m learning how to do this.” There are 15 -20 parenting students at Ricky’s school, but he is the only father. “It’s all girls, except for me,” he said. “I don’t know how they do it alone…taking care of a baby is not easy. When my fiancé goes to work and it’s just me, I really see how important it is to have both parents involved.” And he’s right – children raised without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and twice as likely to drop out.
Ricky has a great role model for fatherhood in his stepfather. His biological dad was abusive when Ricky was young, but fortunately his stepfather entered the picture and welcomed his stepson with open arms. “He taught me everything about what it is to be a man. And he loves his grandson so much.”
Great fathers like Ricky are essential to a child’s social and emotional wellbeing. Research shows that children who feel a closeness to their father are:
- Twice as likely to enter college or find stable employment after high school
- 75% less likely to have a teen birth
- 80% less likely to spend time in jail
- Half as likely to experience multiple depression symptoms
The data shows that high levels of father involvement are correlated with higher levels of sociability, confidence and self-control in children. And children with involved fathers are less likely to act out in school or engage in risky behaviors in adolescence.
About 7% of our students are pregnant or parenting, so we created dedicated classrooms with child-friendly spaces. Students get extra mentorship and education in life skills, child development, health, food, nutrition and financial planning. We connect parenting students with community resources to get free diapers, clothing, formula, childcare and other necessities.
Ricky occasionally sees social media posts from teen boys who think it might be fun to have a baby. “I tell them that it is hard work – not just a ride-along. Until you graduate and get a good job, forget about making a baby.”