A young family of adventurers living by the sea

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Teen Parents At Risk?

Being a young parent is never the ideal situation to be in. You are left with a wealth of uncertainties at your feet and left to navigate a world full of stigma and stereotypes. With society telling you that you will be a benefits scrounger for the rest of your life, it's easy to see how you could immediately fall under the category of vulnerable. 

The Children's Commissioner recently released a report about young people and vulnerabilities. Whilst I wasn't at all surprised to see teen parents on the list, I was horrified to see that they were under the category of putting their futures at risk. Since when was having a child a risk to someones future?



I'm not too sure if I'm more baffled by the wording or the fact that the Children's Commissioner sees childbirth as a risk. But something is inherently wrong with a children's charity demonising and stigmatising teen pregnancy. Yes we are all aware it is less than ideal, but things happen and young parents need to be supported rather than being told they have put their lives at risk.

When you perpetuate an idea that a young woman has ruined her life by having a child, that woman is less likely to stand up and seek support, they are more likely to put themselves at risk by trying to avoid the help that is out there for them. Whilst the support system that is in place at the moment is less than ideal, by telling someone they have put that future at risk, it negates the purpose of the help being there in the first place.

Beyond that, research has proven that young mothers end up in a similar financial and economic situation as their non parent peers when they reach the age of 30. Whilst there are exceptions, it's hard to see the research and take this new report seriously. Add that to the fact that teen pregnancy rates are still dropping, it makes me wonder where they got their facts from as there were definitely less than 36,000 teen mothers last year!

I think that stigmatising teen pregnancy does more harm than good, you just need to look around you to realise how many people were young parents. From celebrities such as Sofia Vergara who is bossing it on TV at the moment, to Maya Angelou who was an inspiration to many. Being a young parent doesn't mean that you life ends there.

When I found out I was pregnant, I knew it wasn't the perfect time but I made the most of it. Since then, me and Scott have never been more determined and driven to succeed. We are fortunate to have an amazing support network, but even my friends that lack the network around them, have managed to forge a life for their families and find their network to push and succeed. I've never seen a bunch of young people so determined career wise than young parents.

I'm not the only one to think that this report can be perceived as damaging and negative, speaking to some of my young parent friends they said this:

"Being a young mother didn't jeopardise my future. In fact it made my future! I've graduated with honours in science and now work in the NHS whilst doing my masters. Having my kids young made me realise what I needed to do. They showed me my future and made me in no way vulnerable." - Sophie K

"They've never been able to properly research and speak to actual young parents who go on to do incredible things. They made assumptions in order to place blame of their failings on teen mums and accuse us of not being able to raise children. I'm a young, single mum who went through university and is now working full time. Not only do we face discrimination, but also a lack of support." - Juvin

"The wording used is awful, whilst young mums are vulnerable, they need support because of the way society is constructed against them. Being a young parent is what drove me to go to uni and get a career as a social worker. Not only am I improving my life and my sons, I am also improving other vulnerable young parents loves as a result of being a young mum myself." - Sarah
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