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Low-income youth attendance is at its lowest, while affluent communities have the highest student attendance rates
One thing has been made clear by the latest spike in COVID-19 and the subsequent return to shelter-in-place: our youth are not alright.

The effects of the pandemic are hitting low-income youth hard: many young people are not in school or working, or are struggling to make ends meet even with essential jobs. This includes foster youth, homeless youth, justice involved youth, and many pregnant and parenting youth.

In low-income communities in San Jose, attendance among students is extremely low at 67% compared to student attendance in affluent communities at 99%. Across the nation, the trend is reflected as enrollment numbers dropped for low-income students attending college this fall. On top of this, parenting students are facing increase in food insecurity, housing insecurity and homelessness.

What does it take for a young mother continue her education in the season of COVID-19?

As seen with the young mothers participating in Teen Success, Inc., there is a gap in what schools provided in person – an escape from domestic violence, social interaction, WIFI, food, and at least some childcare options.

Now, with new shelter-in-place orders and rising COVID-19 cases, relief for teachers and students alike seems farther away than ever.

At least for now, navigating the barriers to education for young mothers and other low-income youth is about meeting basic needs first – shelter, food, income, safety. There are no solutions that offer zero risk.

Challenges of Distance Learning for Young Mothers

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In-school learning means exposure for young mothers who return to multiple-family housing situations, and the ongoing challenge of securing safe, affordable childcare – a situation that’s become worse for young mothers as the pandemic drags on.
Distance learning means being saddled with the responsibility women have always primarily shouldered: caring for others. For many young women, this includes setting up their siblings for their own classes, feeding them, tending to their needs, and for young mothers, doing all of this while also caring for their own infants and toddlers– it’s no wonder that they don’t have time to attend their own classes.

Young mothers are often the primary breadwinners for themselves and their children and work for sub-poverty wages at essential jobs. For those who’ve lost their jobs, as many young mothers have, there’s the overwhelming uncertainty of when the next meal will come and how the rent is going to get paid.

“Compassion has not been present this year with COVID-19,” says Teen Success, Inc. Program and Partnership Manager, Niki Singleton, “especially for young families.”

While some schools have managed somehow to provide hot spots and technology, they’ve not lowered their expectations of their students or their teachers. Both students and teachers are expected to show up regardless of their circumstances at home.           

These circumstances include lack of technology, domestic violence, extreme stress, food insecurity, and language barriers make it hard to be fully engaged in school.

Shaming and stigma persist around young mothers, and in some cases has worsened, because of distance learning. “It doesn’t matter how hard-working [a young mom] is – people see her having a child as a sentence.”

Life for Young Families Beyond the Pandemic

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Yet, through everything that has happened this year, young mothers at Teen Success, Inc. continue to look for the silver lining – experiencing life with their infants and doing whatever they can with what they have.
“It’s a double-edged sword,” says Singleton, reflecting on the lack of resources and support available to young parents, “even if she gets to spend time with her child, she’s still worried about how she’s going to pay the rent or where she’s going to live.”
Surviving as a young parent was hard before COVID-19 took over, and it has only gotten harder.

Teen Success, Inc. Advocates continue to be an essential resource for young mothers and their children through the heightened challenges brought on by the pandemic.

They drop off diapers and mommy-and-me kits to stimulate their participants’ children’s development; field crises such as loss of housing and food insecurity; and consistently infuse positivity, support, and planning to overcome the barriers to distance learning, so that beyond the pandemic, young mothers and their children will have a foundation from which to rebuild their lives.

Dear Teen Success, Inc. Reader,
We hope the content you’ve been reading has elevated your knowledge of the barriers young mothers face in achieving their educational goals and raising children who will thrive.
Most of what you read on the internet about teen pregnancy or parenting teens doesn’t take into account the systemic barriers they face and disassociates the statistics from the real lives of young families. On our blog, you read about those challenges and how they truly impact the day-to-day lives of our program participants.
Changing the perception about young mothers from stigma and stereotypes into empowerment is central in helping young mothers believe in themselves and achieve their goals. A teen mother is not simply a statistic–she’s a young woman with great potential and the ability to create the life she wants for herself and her family.
It takes unwavering support, encouragement, breaking down barriers, and connecting them to the right resources. That’s where you come in.
Only you can help us continue to provide these supports for young families:
An Advocate who becomes a pillar of support and connection to resourcesPlanning for and achieving educational goals through post-secondary while mitigating barriers to successDeveloping parenting skills and building child development knowledgeDeveloping financial literacy, building career skills, and connecting to career resourcesDeveloping health knowledge and connecting to healthcare resources for both mother and childBasic necessities for mother and child such as diapers, wipes, and clothingAn unmatched community of support!As you continue to learn more about the challenges young mothers face, the climate of education for low-income students of color, and the ties between systemic racism and the education gap – we hope we can count on your donation to ensure we can continue meeting young mothers’ needs.