Written by Stephanie Orrico, Child Development Coordinator
One rainy Monday morning, I visited the GRADS program
for teen parents at Hudson’s Bay High School in Vancouver, WA. The GRADS program offers pregnant and parenting teens support in reaching graduation, including life skills, parenting education, and affordable on-site childcare. I went to see the teen parents to talk with them about child development and the importance of regular developmental screenings for their babies; I was also interested to meet a demographic of parents that I don’t interact with very often to see how we can better serve them. As a Child Development Coordinator I am always looking for new ways to engage parents across the state and encourage them to be active participants in monitoring their child’s development.
Looking at the young parents in the room as they filled out development screenings, I marveled at the resilience each teen has built while becoming a parent.
One parent, Celeste (not her real name), shared with me how much her life had transformed in a short period of time. When she discovered she was pregnant, she made the courageous move from the small town where she grew up to Vancouver, in search of more support and opportunities. Having been homeschooled all her life, entering public school was yet another transition during an already unstable time. The GRADS program offered Celeste the practical and psychological stability she needed to settle in. She shared that the other teen parents in the program relate to you in a way other students cannot – “they understand you.”
Her son benefits from the GRADS program, too, interacting with the staff and other children in the childcare. In addition to GRADS, Celeste utilizes the Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) program to become the best parent she can be. In NFP, a parent mentor (who is a nurse by trade) visits the home twice a month for 2 years, providing logistical and emotional support during those critical years. With her nurse, Celeste has learned to track her son’s development using an Ages and Stages Questionnaire
. Each time she completes the tool, she discovers a new skill he has learned and her nurse suggests activities that help her son grow.
The ASQ is one of many tools that the GRADS program uses to build confidence in teen parents; it works to empower them and make them the experts on their babies’ development. From a homeschooled teen in a small town to a confident Vancouver mother, Celeste tapped into GRADS and NFP to build her skill set and support network and to offer her son a healthy start. These students are a testament to the value of stable, positive investment in young parents.
Ages and Stages Questionnaire ASQ Child Development GRADS Hudson's Bay High School NFP Nurse Family Partnership teen parents