October 06, 2020

Australia’s Canberra college program offers teen mothers help to finish high school

Australia’s Canberra college program offers teen mothers help to finish high school

Canberra’s CC Cares program is Australia’s only stand-alone centre designed for those who decide to start a family early. The program is designed for both those who are pregnant and young parents: it guides them through their senior school studies and vocational training, but it also offers free childcare facilities on campus. There are 151 students currently enrolled in the program, aged between 14 and 27 years, with the majority being young mothers. According to Glen Rowe, a vocational education teacher at CC Cares, whilst society is often critical of younger parents, the program equips its students with a positive mindset.

IZA World of Labor author Philip B. Levine has explored the evidence around the labor market implications for teenage mothers. “Evidence indicates that a lack of economic opportunity is important in generating teen births and poor subsequent outcomes,” Levine writes in his article. “With high school dropouts earning around 75% of what high school graduates earn and 40% of what college graduates earn, dropping out of high school is plainly a clear path to economic disadvantage later in life,” he adds.

Stephanie Lowey, 21-year-old student and mother to two children under the age of three, is one of the young mothers enrolled on the CC Cares program. When Ms Lowey lost a hairdressing apprenticeship upon becoming pregnant, she decided to return and finish high school. “It's quite an amazing program, not just for young mums but for other students that are struggling in mainstream school,” Ms Lowey said in an interview. This proves to be a good match for her as CC Cares is also currently offering certificate training in business, hairdressing and hospitality.

Last but not least, teachers make it as easy as possible for students to attend classes regularly. “We have buses that pick up the students and bring them in, and it's a flexible learning environment. Everything is online,” Mr Rowe said. Those who have enrolled are also not pushed to do their studies every day as the program recognizes that each parent has different issues, worries and concerns on any given day. Because of that, there are no set hours and no two days are the same. “A lot of students have been told through their whole life experience that they're useless, that they'll never achieve anything. That's one of our biggest struggles. We encourage them, we put them in touch with people who support them,” Mr Rowe said.

Read Teenage childbearing and labor market implications for women by Philip B. Levine.