SJUSD’s Young Families Program Provides Teen Parents with Support and Resources to Thrive:
When David Reyes arrived at Broadway High School, he was looking for a way to earn some school credits to help get back on solid educational footing. What he ended up finding was a support system that’s been critical to helping him raise his young family.
Reyes and his two-month-old son Josue are part of the San José Unified School District’s Young Families program, which provides childcare, resources, training classes, and materials—such as diapers, baby clothes, and formula—for teen parents, among other services.
“When I came to Broadway, my girlfriend was pregnant, so I found out about the Young Families program that way,” said Reyes, who is now a junior. “The school provided me with all the information, and I knew right away that I wanted to bring my son here. They’ve been an amazing help and given me everything I need.”
Along with his girlfriend, Jessica, Reyes brings Josue into the Young Families program five days a week, enabling him to focus on his studies. He’s set to graduate next year, and he credits that educational pathway to the stability offered by the Young Families program.
“I probably would have been able to stay in school without Young Families, but it would have been really difficult,” said Reyes. “This is a much better option for me. Obviously, being a father at this age has challenges, but Young Families makes that experience easier.”
Based at Broadway High School, one of the District’s alternative schools, the Young Families program allows students to learn what to expect from parenthood.
In addition to providing childcare every weekday from 7:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. the program provides information on medical care services, and it offers partnerships with Planned Parenthood and local mental health clinicians to ensure that young parents receive all the care and resources they need. The program also provides academic and vocational counseling, and all those services are free for students throughout the year.
The program serves children from newborn to three years of age, at which time, parents are provided with guidance and information about possible preschool options offered in the area.
“We truly view this as a safe space,” said Rebecca Taub, the Young Families Program director. “All the students have the commonality of being a teen parent. They get to discuss everything revolving around their lives with other students who are in the same situation. We have a lot of understanding for our young parents. We don’t ask questions—we are here to support them unconditionally.”
Teen pregnancy support programs date back more than 100 years in California—the first one launched in 1917—and there were numerous such sites within the District for decades. But with teen pregnancy rates dropping and subsequent decreases in state funding, San José Unified has consolidated its resources into a single Young Families program at Broadway High, one of just three such programs that exist in the Bay Area.
Although the community is smaller—seven infants and toddlers are enrolled—it is tight-knit. Taub said she keeps in contact with alums of the program to catch up and get updates on how parenthood is coming along.
“The parents will stop by every once in a while to show us their children,” said Taub. “It’s pretty amazing to see how much their kids have grown over the years.”
Lucero Estrada is one of those parents who have kept in touch with Taub. Estrada had two boys–Jayden and Liam–who took part in the Young Families program, and she said the support she received during her time in school was invaluable.
“It was a huge help because I could actually go to class and study while raising a child,” said Estrada, whose boys are now four and nine. “I didn’t have anyone to watch my son at the time while I was studying. So even for me to just take him to school and have him be close by while I was in class was a huge help.”
Because so many lives have been positively changed by the Young Families program, Taub said she is constantly trying to get the word out to students who could benefit from the services.
“We want our teen parents to know that there is help out there,” said Taub. “They don’t have to go through this experience alone.”
Reyes concurs with Taub on that sentiment. He said the Young Families program has been particularly inspiring for him as he raises Josue.
“Being a dad is amazing,” said Reyes. “It gives you something to live for. And this program helps remind me of that every day.”