Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Lack of Foresight

While in my undergraduate program, I often studied issues related to urban poverty.  After three years of avid study, I felt my research always pointed to this as a top cause of poverty: single parenting and specifically teenage parenting.  While teenage pregnancy is an issues found in more than urban areas, statistics indicate that urban areas as the epicenter of this problem.  Take Pennsylvania, for example.  The city of Philadelphia has historically and still tops the state in pregnancy rates.   The rate is calculated by the amount of pregnancies over the number of females ages 15-19 times 1,000, so the rate does not mean the rate is high just because there are more teens in Philadelphia than other places in the state.

When I graduated, it was my desire to serve the single parent population, so I began working full-time at an organization that provided services including teen parenting workshops and special programs.  I had the opportunity to meet with several teen moms, during my time working for this organization.  I found that teen moms are taxed with a very heavy burden, often with little support.  For some, parents will kick them out of the house, leaving mom and baby homeless.  Also, there are a number of teen moms not support financially or emotionally by their “baby daddy,” but I will add that I seemed to see a lot of young men really trying to step up and be supportive.  For teen moms, dropping out of school is often the only option, because they must work to support their child or children.  All of this wraps up into a cyclic problem, as undereducated teen moms will continue to struggle financially in the future, because they lack the education to get stable and well-paying jobs.  I’m not even going to get into the problems for children of teen parents. 

All in all, teen parents are in dire need of quality services providing the support they need to thrive.  I had heard of the ELECT (Education Leading to Employment and Career Training) program when I worked in my first job, but I did not hear about the impact of their organization until I read a July article in the Inquirer.  ELECT is a statewide program, but given the concentration of teen pregnancy in Philadelphia, it has always been the focus.  Starting as primarily a service to provide teen parents with education and career support, it has evolved to provide medical, child care, transportation, and counseling referrals. 

According to the Inquirer Article titled Program for Pregnant Students has Unclear Future, “ELECT serves about 1,000 students, a dam against the joblessness and despair that routinely await unwed teenage dropouts… Nationally, only 40 percent of mothers who have children before age 18 go on to graduate. Many drop out in Philadelphia, too, though ELECT cites a high graduation rate. Last school year, among 403 students who met the criteria for graduation - completing course work and other requirements - 369 graduated. That's 91 percent.”  Despite the success of this program, it seems that the state budget has determined this program less worthy than other items, and the summer program and middle school aged afterschool programs have been cut. The state of the main in-school program will depend upon the allocation of funds from the Department of Education and Public Welfare Offices.

Considering the massive cuts in school budgets, I do not think the Department of Education will have a lot to spare, and looking at a breakdown of the 2011-2012 budget there are many cuts to Public Welfare spending.  In researching for follow-up information on the state of ELECT, I have not been able to locate any information, but I am afraid that this will be another casualty of economic war.  The shame really is, “The cost of teenage births to state taxpayers, in lost tax revenue, public health care, and children welfare runs $463 million a year” (Gammage, 2011).  A lack of foresight seems to be the biggest problem that our state government is unable to overcome. 

Source: Gammage, Jeff. "Program for Pregnant Students Has Unclear Future." Philly.Com. The Inquirer Digital, 19 July 2011. Web. 19 July 2011. <>.

No comments:

Post a Comment