/ Modified mar 8, 2019 4:45 p.m.

Teen Moms, Families Get Child Care Help Through School District

A look at how Sunnyside Unified School District programs have helped hundreds of students.

Many workplaces offer child care options for newborns and toddlers, including the Sunnyside Unified School District. But faculty and staff aren't the only ones taking advantage of those services. For decades, hundreds of students and families in the district have received much-needed support in and out of school from the Teenage Parent Program and Parents as Teachers.

For over 30 years, the program has helped about 900 student parents, including more than two dozen this year. Services are designed to help young parents finish high school. TAPP has an Infant Center at Sunnyside High School that provides day care for infants between 2 weeks and 12 months old. It can cost $15 per week. Monica Luna, who oversees the program, said many students get financial assistance through the Arizona Department of Economic Security or through scholarships.

"I think it's important that they pay something because they need to get used to the fact that once they're out of school and they need day care, they're going to have to pay on a regular basis," Luna said.

Four students are utilizing the Infant Center this year. Other services offered by TAPP include parenting classes for both male and female students and prenatal classes for expecting mothers. A case manager also helps them with additional resources they may need at home. TAPP is also focused on trying to reduce teen pregnancies within the district through sex education and workshops that teach adults how to discuss the topic with their children.

"This program is a necessity. We would like for conversations to take place from very young in the household. But obviously that doesn't happen because we have teenagers that become pregnant before they planned it," Luna said. "So, what do we do with that population? We help them to be successful. We all succeed if they succeed."

Another Sunnyside Unified School District program, Parents as Teachers, strives to help families in the district with children up to five years old. Services include two home visits a month where educators can go over parenting methods, promote literacy and help parents deal with stress.

"The core of the program is a home visitation program, because that's also where most learning takes place," program coordinator Joan Katz said.

Currently, more than 320 families are signed up for Parents as Teachers and the program has a waitlist. According to Katz, most of the families served are low income.

Both the Teenage Parent Program and Parents as Teachers rely on support from First Things First, a statewide organization that funds early education and programs for children. It receives most of its funding from a tax on tobacco sales. However, that revenue stream has shrunk in recent years as fewer people use tobacco products.

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