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Di Taylor

on 7 November 2013

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What makes us think teen parenting is a concern?


A presentation about teenage pregnancy
and teenage parenting

Is it an social concern?

What discourses exists toward teen parents?

How do these discourses impact?

How can social work respond to the issue?
and Participation

A Ministry of Social Development report presented to the WWG suggests there are legitimate reasons for concern around the outcomes for both teen parents and their children
Woman who become mothers before the age of 21 are:
3 x more likely to receive a benefit
9 x more likely to have no qualifications
2 x more likely to suffer major depression
3 x more likely to think about or attempt suicide
2 x more likely to become substance dependent
The children of women who become mothers before the age of 21 are:
2.5 x more likely to leave school early
2 x more likely to be unemployed for 12 months or longer
2.9 x more likely to be violent offenders
2.5 x more likely to become teen parents themselves

In 2012 there were 6000 teen pregnancies in NZ

Lets explore what people say when asked about the topic of teen pregnancy and parenting

"Victims with low self-esteem, low confidence. Needing something to love and a purpose" Male, 46, Mental Health Support Worker

"Irresponsible, too young, I feel sorry for the kids" Male, 46, Co Director

"Bad, too young to be reponsible for a child's life when they are still growing up themselves" Male, 16, Student

"Too young, not ready, wasted potential, young lives gone - ripped off" Female, 48, Merchandiser

"An issue for certain demographics because it becomes a trap, becomes intergenerational. In supportive families it might not be so bad" Female, 45, Nurse

"Disappointed society has lost it's willingness for...babies...to be adopted. More support and encouragement for teenagers to adopt into open adoptions" Female, 46, Analyst

And finally.....

"It's hard to find the balance between providing support for the most vulnerable without it seeming like a career option. Schools need to teach, life skills, sex education, financial planning, ethics. Teach long term consequences for actions and how to prevent pregnancy, prepare young parents for what lies ahead. Some teens think a baby will bring meaning to life as well as benefits. Teen parents need enormous community and government support to prosper and not repeat the cycle" (Abridged) Male , 53, Self-employed
Can you pick the theme?

Diverse responses but over all the tone is negative.

Everyone seems to agree teen pregnancy and teen parenting are a problem

Youth Education Tutors who work with pregnant teens and teen parents share some thoughts on factors contributing to teen pregnancy

Teen pregnancy is the inter-generational norm, acceptable and often expected, especially for teens from low socio-economic backgrounds.

"Grandmothers seem to want it" no advice or support around contraception use, staking claim over the baby.

There are many irrational and outlandish myths around contraception.

Intense self-consciousness, anxiety and embarrassment bout seeking contraception.

Alcohol a big factor - no rubber, no hubba bubba..whatever

Rebellion against strict parents, "I'll show you" pregnancy is an unplanned side effect

Genuine accidents
A 27 year old Business Manager told me about her unplanned pregnancy at 17.

Intelligent, top of the class. Didn't do drugs or drink, practised safe sex in a relationship, supportive normal family.

"When I got pregnant I couldn't bring myself to tell anyone, all the stigma and stereotypes attached to the idea of pregnant teens just made it too hard to say anything. In the end I had a termination, it was only later that I let family know"

Social Security Act 1964

Social Security (Youth Support and Work Focus) Amendment Act 2012
The parameters around the definition of teen parents as a concern are economically determined within the Act.
So what does it mean if your are a teen parent on a benefit?

You are obligated to:

Attend full-time education or training to NCEA level 2
or higher
Complete a budgeting programme
Attend budgeting talks
Be under money management
Attend a parenting programme
Attend regular interviews with your worker
Enrol child in PHO
Maintain Well Child checks
Enrol child in Early Childhood Education

Obligations may start as soon as your child is 6 months old
What else is happening at a macro level?
2012 Budget Ministry of Social Development put aside $1 million to be spent over 4 years on free contraception for beneficiaries and their daughters. In the first 5 months only 35 women accessed this service.
There is an ongoing public debate about the efficacy of providing the morning after pill free to women under 25.

"Re-storying identities: Young women's narratives of teenage parenthood and educational support" Jenny Hindin-Miller, 2012

NZ & International research - early parenting leads to "intergenerational socio-economic disadvantage, welfare dependence, marital difficulties, maternal depression and less effective and more punitive parenting practices"

Children more likely to have health problems, physical injuries, behaviourial difficulties, language delays and educational under achievement.

So it would appear there is good cause for concern

Societies norms and values form a social structure which is constraining and pervasive, Hindin-Miller identified society as holding three common discourses around teen parenting

Teen parenting is a form of deviance

Teen parents are a burden on the state

Teen parenting creates social exclusion
So is it just the government that thinks it's a problem?
So there is evidence that teen pregnancy and parenting is an intergenerational issue with significant social and fiscal costs.

What other discourses do we need to understand?
Government and Society, social structures in agreement that teen parenting is a problem. The impact from government comes by way of legislation and policy, the impact from society comes in the form of stigma, stereotyping and discrimination
If being a teen parent is so hard and contraception is available, why do teenagers still get pregnant?
From families, young pregnant women
will face a variety of reactions.....
(older teens)
to abort
Pissed off,
really angry
Torn between
two families
And what about from the father of their child?
Reluctant to accept
Judging of the young woman's sexuality - she becomes a slut and a whore
and other responses?
Disapproving gazes
from the public
Medical carers
assuming preference
for termination
Negative comments
from strangers
Ritual of "baby showers"
is denied as teen pregnancy
not seen as a reason to
And what about the
teens who are
currently surviving
on the Young
Parent Payment?
What does Hindin-Millers research tell us about the stereotyping, stigma and discrimination faced by teen mothers?
Insufficient money to provide extras for their children
Too controlling of their money
System isn't fair
Don't get a break when you have to be in full-time study and then look after your child
The obligations made me do a course I had been talking about for ages, so it was good
Not enough money for childcare
Would just like to be able to stay home and be a Mum, but society things we are bad mothers and bludgers
My Youth Coach tried to get my baby taken off me
So we know what the government thinks and
what they are doing and we've heard a bit of
what society says, now let's look from the teen's perspective

Important to know research identifies important factors contributing to teen pregnancy:

Sexual content in the media

Absentee fathers (impact on delinquent behaviour, abuse situations and puberty)

Lack of enforced parental boundaries

A majority of teen pregnancies result from sex with an adult (non-teen)
Most importantly, teenagers need the support of caring, nurturing, teaching and guiding adults to support them in good decision making
-Family and Community Services
-Youth Services
-School Counsellors or Social Workers
Youth Social Workers..
-Family and Community Services
Regional or National Office
-NGO service providers
-Ministry of Social Development
-Families Commission
"Teen Parent Intensive Case Worker"
Support teen parent to stay in school & prepare for future employment
Link to other services (parenting, budgeting etc)
Complimented by "Volunteer Neighbourhood Supporters"
2009 evaluation showed +++ case load

"Youth Coach"
Support teen parent to fulfil obligations
required to receive benefit payments

"Condom Card Practitioner"
Have non-threatening, non-judgemental supportive talks with teens around sexual behaviour and supply '12 trip' ticket for condom supply
Central Government
Family and Community Services
National Office
Community Groups
Family and Community Services Regional Office
Research and Policy Development
MSD ministry of government reponsible for the creation of policy.
Families Commission - a knowledge organisation dedicated to the monitoring and evaluation of policy which impacts on families
Act as WINZ workers (even YSSU admit this)

Frustrations between process requirements and what
works (needs assessment)

Most effective practice pushes against professional

Concerns around impact of teen parents on obligations
to be in full-time study or work training and ECE shortfalls

Difficulty maintaining culturally appropriate staffing levels

Reluctant clients
In Hawkes Bay the DHB is launching a pilot project which will train front line workers to be Condom Card Practitioners. If successful this may be implemented in other regions
The role of the Youth Coach
"Walking beside a client to help them find their way"

On the client's side
Client's best interests at heart
Allowing the clients to define the way forward
Provide holistic support

Unable to provide holistic support

Client's input into what will work best may conflict with obligations.

Worker feels they haven't or can't do enough.

Limits about who the service can support.

Delays in referral service uptake.

Policy and legislative knowledge essential.

Too may clients - too little time

The girls can be very good mothers with support.

The girls aim to become better mothers to their children than their own mothers were to them.

Many teens had no plans or ambitions before becoming pregnant but being a parent gives them a future focus.

Becoming a parent can provide satisfaction and meaning.

Becoming a parent helps young people develop a sense of responsibility.

Parenthood can be a catalyst for growth and a turning point in the lives of young parents.
In Summary

Teen pregnancy and parenthood is an issue due to the social and economic costs

The causes are complex with many contributing factors

Socio-economic status, family dynamics and dysfunction are significant factors

Other cultures will see the issue differently

There is a societal conflict between participation and contribution and the value of full-time parenthood

Teens who are pregnant or parenting face a barrage of discrimination from society at every level which can contribute to isolation and exclusion

Adult Educators, Hinden Miller and the Families Commission (in "Teenage Pregnancy and Parenting: An Overview) all tell us there is some good stuff too................
Full transcript