Pregnant and Parenting Teen Initiative



Best Practices

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A Resource Guide of Best Practices for Pregnant and Parenting Teen Programs

School Attendance And Retention

Sections
Rationale
School Law
Welfare Reform Laws
Strategies
Collaboration with Schools and Agencies
Best Practices


Rationale

Regular school attendance is often a concern when working with pregnant or parenting teens. During pregnancy, the teen may experience a variety of physical problems that interfere with regular attendance. After the birth of the baby, the teen must balance the difficult roles of student and parent. Often childbearing compounds existing attendance problems. Most frequently, teen parents are absent for several reasons: the susceptibility of young children to a variety of illnesses, necessity of scheduling physician and agency appointments during the school day and the reliability of the teens' child care provider.

Absenteeism has been and continues to be a major obstacle in providing the education and support necessary for teens to become good parents and self-sufficient adults. Poor attendance and a high absentee rate can result in:

sporadic instruction;
inability to comprehend material;
incomplete or missing homework assignments;
lack of connection with the school and school-related activities; and
being labeled as unmotivated and uncooperative.

School Law

Act 29, a 1995 Pennsylvania law, imposed stiffer penalties for truancy of all students. In summary, this Act includes:

A $300 fine, parent education classes and/or community service for parents of a truant child, if the parents cannot show they took reasonable steps to insure the child's school attendance.
The parent and child must appear at a hearing before the district justice.
Truant students may lose their driver's license for 90 days for a first offense and six months for a second offense.
Any child who does not have a driver's license shall be ineligible to apply for a learner's permit for a period of one year.

In addition, Act 98, a 1996 amendment to the Pennsylvania Crimes Code, imposes new, harsher penalties against adults who assist in student truancy. In summary:

There is a maximum fine of $300 and up to 90 days in jail for an adult who aids, abets, entices or encourages a student (under age 18) to be truant from school. This is considered a summary offense.

Subsequent violations by such a person within one year of the prior offense constitute a misdemeanor of the third degree, which is punishable by a maximum fine of $2,500 and up to one year in jail.

Pregnant and Parenting Teen students must comply with both Act 29 and Act 98. In addition, the attendance of students enrolled in ELECT Programs is monitored by program staff and the County Assistance Office (CAO).

Welfare Reform Laws

Welfare Reform has increased emphasis on education and training programs for welfare recipients. Teen parents who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) fall under the new reform guidelines which include:

an unmarried, custodial, minor parent must reside with a parent, legal guardian or other adult relative unless exempted by the state.
an unmarried, custodial, minor parent caring for a child 12 weeks of age or older, who has not completed high school or attained a GED must participate in an educational activity directed toward the attainment of a high school diploma or its equivalent or an alternative educational or training program that has been approved by the state.

Some effective strategies to promote regular school attendance include:

School personnel check school attendance daily/weekly.
Program personnel initiate phone contacts as soon as an attendance problem is identified.
If the problem continues, home visits are made.
Program personnel should collaborate with the local authorities responsible for enforcing the attendance law.
The CAO case worker and PPT staff meet on a monthly basis to discuss attendance issues and develop strategies to address problems.

Program staff closely monitor attendance through a Monthly Attendance Report (MAR). The report is sent to the CAO and identifies the number of days attended in relation to the number of days scheduled and reasons for absences.

When all program efforts fail and the student continues to be truant, the option lies with the local CAO to place sanctions upon the student and/or family for noncompliance with the school's attendance requirements. Through frequent communication with the local CAO, warning letters and individual meetings between the student and the CAO case worker will be a first step in addressing an attendance problem. If the truancy continues, the teen parent's welfare benefits can be sanctioned until compliance occurs. These sanctions may include cessation of cash benefits, child care benefits and/or food stamps. Withholding benefits can be a powerful motivator for school attendance.

Strategies

The following are strategies that have been used by PPT Programs in Pennsylvania to address attendance problems. It is important to remember that there are many causes for poor attendance and, therefore, no one best solution. Teen parents, like all teenagers, need to be constantly reminded that they are ultimately responsible for their attendance. It is the teen's responsibility to schedule appointments and make child care arrangements that reduce the number of absences.

Attendance Policy

Upon enrolling in the PPT Program, the attendance policy must be reviewed with each student individually. A PPT Program should also: require the student to sign a contract regarding participation in the program; provide a copy of the signed contract to the families of teen parents to insure their understanding and support; monitor attendance regularly; and inform students of the consequences of poor attendance.

Monitoring procedures for PPT students vary throughout the state. In the best-case scenario, the student's attendance is monitored on a daily basis. This is possible when the PPT-Program staff/teacher is assigned to only one building. However, when the PPT Program staff/teacher is assigned to several buildings, attendance may be monitored on a weekly basis. Attendance monitoring should include phone contacts and home visits to determine the reason for absences and provide needed support services.

Home Visits and Phone Contacts

Frequent individual contact and a strong home-school bond are the cornerstone of a successful program. There are several ways to achieve this goal.

Phone contacts are the first step in opening the lines of communication with the family/guardian. They will enable program staff to determine immediately the reason for the absence and provide the necessary intervention.

Home visits are also essential in establishing a close working relationship with the family.

Home visits are made to enlist the family's aid in providing support.

Home visits help PPT staff to identify health-related problems, substance abuse problems and/or mental health problems.

Incentives

Incentive programs have proven to be an excellent technique to increase attendance and motivate students to attend school. By developing partnerships with local businesses, schools are able to receive new and used items as donations for their incentive programs. In order for an incentive to be successful, it must be developed in cooperation with the students. The following are examples of incentives that have proven to be successful.

Personal Recognition
Certificates of recognition or achievement; selection of a student of the month; special privileges; recognition luncheon; and other verbal reinforcement of desired behavior.

Monetary Incentives
A package of diapers or child's underwear if the PPT student has been absent one day a month or less.
An end-of-the-year drawing for a $ 100 gift certificate. Names are entered monthly, based on good attendance, giving the student a maximum of nine chances to win.
Baby Bucks. The Baby Bucks are issued for good attendance and can be redeemed at a PPT baby store. Items in the store have been donated by local businesses, clubs and individuals.
$5 gift certificates awarded monthly by a local mall for good attendance.

Collaboration with Schools and Agencies

Cooperation and collaboration between school districts and local community agencies are essential to insure the success of PPT students. PPT staff could use the following school district staff and programs to assist with attendance problems.

School District Attendance Clerks/Officers
These staff monitor attendance daily and can assist with home visits.

Juvenile Probation Department
Some school districts have a Probation Officer assigned to their buildings. Other districts have written agreements with Probation to collaborate on individual cases.

Dropout Prevention Programs
Districts may have staff assigned to assist with potential dropouts

Alternative Education and Flexible Scheduling Programs

Partnerships with Local Post-Secondary Educational Facilities
This may include community colleges, universities, colleges and business or technical schools.

Student Assistance Program (SAP)
Trained staff are able to identify and refer students whose attendance problems are related to mental health and/or drug and alcohol issues.

Homework Clubs, After-School Programs, Tutoring

School Guidance Counselors and In-School Support Groups

Mentoring Programs
Concerned adults can provide encouragement and support to pregnant and parenting teens through positive role modeling and help with school work.

Children, Youth and Family Services (CYFS)
Many districts have CYFS case workers assigned to the SAP team or a worker assigned as a liaison to a school.

Family Centers
In some cases, communities have Family Centers that provide on-site counseling drop-in centers, after-school programs and assistance to teens and their families.

Community Centers
There are a variety of local community-based centers that provide recreational, social and educational activities. Local YMCA's and YWCA's are just one example.

 

Best Practices
Big Beaver Falls Area School District
  The district provides each pregnant and parenting teen with a calendar each month. Students are required to track their attendance and submit reasons for nonattendance. This process promotes students' responsibility for their behavior and encourages regular attendance.

Contact: Nancy Hutchinson (724) 843-7470 x 3

Delaware County Intermediate Unit
  A Student Achievement Award Ceremony and Luncheon are held at the end of each semester to recognize the accomplishments of teen parents in the areas of academic achievement, improved attendance and successful completion of program activities.

Contact: Adele Peters (610) 622-0211

Penncrest School District
  The provision of emergency child care and assistance in accessing and scheduling needed medical care are used to promote regular attendance. Additionally, gift certificates, prizes, and clothing for teens and babies are attendance incentives donated by community businesses.

Contact: Debbie Gifford (814) 724-6768

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last updated April 27, 1999


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