Empowering teen mothers, transforming lives
Finding good, safe childcare is an issue faced by mothers of all ages, education levels and backgrounds – “Can I trust my provider?”, “How will I afford it?”, “How will I make it work with my schedule?”. For the young mothers of Teen Success, Inc., these concerns are often amplified by lack of reliable transportation to take their child to and from, as well as securing competitive placements in affordable childcare programs for their children. One Teen Success, Inc. member, Viviana, took the bus 2.5 hours each way to get her daughter into a free childcare program for infants, if she missed even one day, she would lose her daughter's spot in the program.
Historically, local high schools have attempted to alleviate the the problem of finding safe, reliable, and accessible childcare by providing it for student parents on campus; however, due to budgetary constraints and other pressures, the number of childcare centers on high school campuses has dropped over the past several years. For this reason, many of the young moms in the Teen Success, Inc. program transfer to local continuation schools – one of the only options that still offers infant and toddler care – after giving birth and returning to school. Without access to childcare, many young moms cannot continue their education.
I was fearful about losing childcare for my daughter because that was my only source for help to be able to go to school.
Sofia Jaquez, Teen Success, Inc. Member: When I first found out about the issue of possibly losing the day care at my school I felt a little surprised. I was fearful about losing childcare for my daughter because that was my only source for help to be able to go to school. The thought of not having the Family Learning Center (FLC) day care worried me because I didn’t have a reliable, affordable baby sitter for my daughter. I was already busy and I didn’t want to have to worry about not having day care for an indefinite amount of time.
In November 2017, pregnant and parenting students in the East Side Union High School District (ESUHSD) received a letter from their school childcare center stating that the ESUHSD was uncertain about future funding for the remaining early childhood education programs, including those at continuation schools. The letter provided very little information and these students, some of who are also members of the San Jose Teen Success, Inc. program, were left with more questions than answers.
These program members came to Teen Success, Inc. with their concerns, ideas, and suggestions, and expressed an interest in getting involved.
All of us are different, but one thing that is the same, we need that day care to go to school, and if we worked together we had a better chance of saving the day care.
Sofia Jaquez: At first, I wasn’t sure if I had the time to dedicate to resolving the issue or if I was going to be able to be a part of fighting for the day care. When we talked about it in group, and I saw how passionately the other girls were speaking their mind. I realized it was not just me who felt this way, but there were other moms who wanted to get involved too. It motivated me to want to get involved and have my voice be heard and I made the decision to join the other girls. All of us are different, but one thing that is the same, we need that day care to go to school and if we worked together we had a better chance of saving the day care.
Over the last several months, Teen Success, Inc. San Jose members mobilized on this issue, writing letters, making phone calls, creating a video about the importance of childcare to their education, and speaking at school board meetings. These young women were not just looking to voice frustration and lament the loss of their childcare – they were fighting to be seen, heard, and make change happen.
On February 26, 2018, five Teen Success, Inc. members and their children arrived at the ESUHSD board meeting. Sofia Jaquez spoke about the FLC and how the childcare staff has been a consistent source of support for her young family over the last several years. Lesly H., another San Jose Teen Success, Inc. member, spoke about the importance of having a day care on campus and asked that young mothers be included in the conversation and decision-making moving forward.
I was going to be speaking up for something important and I couldn’t afford to lose daycare...I knew I was going to be speaking from the heart and that’s all I needed.
Sofia Jaquez: When I first arrived at the ESUHSD board meeting and realized how many people showed up to help make a change for different topics that they were passionate about, I realized it was more serious than I thought. I noticed how many board members were there to hear me speak and I started to get nervous. I saw some of my teachers there and Ms.Connie from FLC. I knew I was going to be speaking up for something important and I couldn’t afford to lose day care, so I felt pretty confident to speak even though I didn’t have a speech or notecard already written out. I knew I was going to be speaking from the heart and that’s all I needed.
I knew in that moment our voices really did make an impact.
Sofia Jaquez: At the end of the board meeting, when the Board told us they would keep FLC for another year, I knew in that moment our voices really did make an impact. At school, teachers and fellow students acknowledged that I had spoken out and let me know that they were proud of me. It felt good to be recognized as someone who is willing to stand up for things they believe in. I think it’s an honor that in future board meetings, me and the other moms are welcome to join in the conversation.
The following video was created by the members of Teen Success, Inc. San Jose and shared with ESUHSD's Board as a way to connect them to their experiences as moms and students, and create a dialogue about the importance of day care on campus both for their children's well-being and their own access to education.