The evidence shows that high school dropouts earn less money, have poorer health outcomes and are more likely to get into legal trouble. And teenagers who are pregnant or who are parents are especially vulnerable to dropping out of school. There are hundreds of programs designed to keep teens in school. But how effective are they, especially for pregnant and parenting teens?
A new systematic review evaluates programs designed to prevent pregnant and parenting teens from dropping out of school. The review combined data from 15 different studies that measured outcomes for pregnant and parenting teens enrolled in programs designed to encourage them to stay in school.
On the whole, the programs were successful. The review found that teens enrolled in both school- and community-based programs were less likely to drop out and more likely to graduate from high school. The review also found that programs with successful implementation – meaning they were fully funded and staffed – were more successful in achieving positive outcomes.
“No single prevention or intervention strategy was clearly more effective than the others, but the quality of program implementation was of particular importance,” the authors wrote. “These results …suggest that the particular program strategy makes less of a difference than selecting a strategy that can be successfully implemented by the school or agency.”
Cornell’s Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research supports these types of programs through its ACT for Youth Center of Excellence, which works with the NYS Department of Health to help communities better support expectant and parenting teens.
“The findings from this review offer tremendous hope to communities to better serve a population of youth that often falls between the cracks of service delivery systems,” program director Jane Powers said. “Clearly, there are effective ways to better serve pregnant and parenting teens to help them achieve academic success, which will optimize their future health and economic self sufficiency.”
The take-home message? Pregnant and parenting teens are one group that can clearly benefit from support to help them stay in school.