What does it mean to be a parent?

by Jayne M.

Jayne is a teen writer who is part of the Females Against Violence Education Group based in San Francisco. We asked this group to write about their thoughts on topics related to pregnancy, contraception, teen health, and teen rights. The thoughts below do not necessarily represent those of the National Center for Youth Law.

I’m not a parent yet, but what I believe makes a good parent is dedication, patience, and, most importantly, love. I want to make sure I discipline my kids but also show them lots of love. I think sometimes new parents don’t truly understand the responsibilities, effort, and sacrifice they have to put in. There’s more than one factor to parenting: finances, education, values, culture, etc. Parenting is challenging and it’s a huge learning experience. 

Some of the most common challenges are those that have to do with directly meeting the basic needs of a child and their parent. For example, I’ve watched my cousin, a teen mom, struggle with not being able to buy diapers for her baby. She quit school not because of the baby but because of lack of resources to support her while she was parenting. The lack of resources really affects her now. She is having a hard time finding a job because she doesn’t have a babysitter. She can’t meet some of the basic needs she has for herself or her baby, and it is really stressful for her. 

Even though parenting can be stressful and difficult at times I think there are perks to it too. Some of these perks are coming home to a baby’s love and being able to pass down traditions, values, and beliefs to another person. Most importantly, it is a new opportunity to create new cycles, and the bonding love you create and have. Everyone chooses their path but I believe parenting is one in which you will learn so much and change for the better.

Ask NCYL: If I’m in Foster Care can I still live with my child?

You’ve sent us your questions about sex, pregnancy, and parenting rights. Each month, we’ll pick one to answer here on the blog. Check out our latest Q&A below!

First of all it’s important to know that even if you’re in foster care, that doesn’t mean your child will enter foster care as well. Children are put into foster care if their parent or guardian can no longer take care of them. If you’re able and willing to take care of your child, they can live with you. No one can take your child away from you just because you’re under 18 or live in foster care. But you must care for your child just like any other parent.

If you’re staying with a foster family or group home, they may receive extra money if your child stays there with you. But depending on your foster care situation, you may need to move to a new placement if you’re pregnant and want to have the child. If you become pregnant and decide to have the baby, make sure to speak with your social worker, lawyer, and foster parents. You can all come together to decide whether the foster home you’re in will be the right place for you, or if you need to find a new place to stay.

If you are not taking good care of your child, Child Protective Services might ask you to give up custody. If you choose to give up custody, it may be very difficult to get your child back, even after you turn 18 or leave foster care. Don’t give up your child unless you have thought about it very carefully, talked to a lawyer, and talked to a trusted adult.

Learn more about your health rights while in Foster Care by visiting the Foster Care Section in our Youth Legal Guide. 


Ask NCYL: Am I Allowed to Breastfeed my Child in School?

You’ve sent us your questions about sex, pregnancy, and parenting rights. Each month, we’ll pick one to answer here on the blog. Check out our latest Q&A below!

Breastfeeding may not be the most popular topic to bring up at school, but we often get questions from teens wondering how they can manage being a mom and being a student at the same time.

Your school cannot harass you just because you’re pregnant or parenting.  It also has to help make it a bit easier for you to go to school and be a parent.  One example is that if you want to pump or breastfeed, you have the right to do so in school and most schools have to give you “reasonable accommodations” to make that easier.

What does “reasonable accommodation” mean?   It means that the school has to give you a private space (not a bathroom) where you can feed your baby or pump milk.  It has to let you bring a pump to school and give you a place to store milk safely after it’s been pumped, and it has to give you reasonable time throughout the day to breastfeed or pump and not punish you academically for taking that time.  That’s not all.  Check out Education Code 222 for more.

When navigating both school and new parenthood, it’s important to know your rights so you can stand up for them and protect them if people around you don’t respect them. If a school forces you to pump in a bathroom or doesn’t give you these “reasonable accommodations,” you have a right to file a complaint.

To learn more about your other rights, feel free to browse throughout the site for more information!

ASK NCYL: Can I get kicked out of school for being pregnant or being a parent?

You’ve sent us your questions about sex, pregnancy, and parenting rights. Each month, we’ll pick one to answer here on the blog. Check out our answers below!


No! You have the right to stay in school if you become pregnant or a teen parent.  Your school cannot treat you unfairly or harass you just because you’re pregnant or have a child; the school also can’t kick you out or force you to go to a different school.

In California, you have to stay in school until you are 18, you graduate, or you get a certificate of proficiency. Once you become pregnant or a parent, you can stay in your current school, but you also can choose to leave your current school and find a new one that might better meet the new needs you face as a pregnant or parenting teen. You can go to a continuation program, a GED program, adult education classes, community college, or a special school for pregnant and parenting teens. The choice is yours.

If you do decide to look into a different school, try to find out as much about that school as possible. Ask whether the school has flexible schedules, what degrees they offer, and what kinds of programs they may have for pregnant and parenting teens. Talk to trusted adults, your school counselor, teachers, and recent graduates of programs you’re interested in to get a better sense of what you can expect.

There are programs that will help you regardless of what school you’re in. You can find out more about these programs here.

As a teen parent, you have unique rights when it comes to staying in school and completing your education. Make sure to visit the School and Education section of our Youth Legal Guide for a complete guide to your rights in school as a teen parent.

ASK NCYL: What is Child Support and How Do I Get It?

You’ve sent us your questions about sex, pregnancy, and parenting rights. Each month, we’ll pick one to answer here on the blog. Check out our answers below!

Child support is the money that one parent pays the other to support the child they have together.  Usually someone tries to get child support if they are not living with the other parent of their child. Sometimes parents make arrangements to share costs without going to court and getting a child support order.  Sometimes they want an order.

You can get a child support order by going to court and starting a child-support case. You can do this on your own or with your local child support agency (LCSA).  The LCSA can help you find your child’s other parent if they’re missing, ask the court to order the other parent to pay monthly support, help you collect child support money and make sure your child support order is obeyed.  The LCSA does this for free.

After you file a case, the court will decide how much child support you can get.  The amount of child support you can get depends on each parent’s income, whether each parent is paying for child care or health insurance, and how much time the child spends with each parent.

The court does not always order the other parent to pay child support.  For example, if the other parent is younger than 18, the court may wait for the parent to finish high school before ordering them to pay support. However, you don’t have to wait until the other parent turns 18 before you can ask for child support. In fact, if you need child support, it’s better to start your case sooner rather than later, since cases can take some time to get started.

Having a court order can be very helpful. If the other parent does not pay the child support they owe you, you can use a court order to prove that the other parent owes you money, and the court can use it to require the parent to pay you that money. If the other parent refuses to pay child support, the court may order the support to be taken automatically from their paycheck or bank account. There may also be penalties if the parent doesn’t pay.

Whether to ask for a child support order is a personal and important decision. Sometimes, there are reasons not to seek out a child support order.  It can really help to talk it through with a lawyer to find out the pros and cons and get your questions answered.  You can find legal resources on our website.  You also can find out how to contact your local LCSA.

You can learn more about child support and find answers to specific questions by visiting our Child Support section in the Youth Legal Guide here.

Our Top Teen Parent Resolutions for 2016

The New Year is fast approaching, so we asked some teen parents: what are your goals and resolutions for the next year?

“My goal is to be a great mom and be healthier. Since I had my child I have been feeling less active and need to change my health. I also need to be more organized and have a good routine.”

“My goal is to get my baby to grow up healthy. I want to spend a lot of time with her and manage how to deal with school.”

“My goal is to have better relationships with my friends and family. I want to be able to control my mood swings and make changes to keep myself healthier both mentally and physically.”

“My goal is to spend as much time with my daughter as possible so she can know that I will always have time for her no matter how tired I am.”

Do you have similar goals? What are some ways you can make these goals come true? Share your resolutions and goals in the comments below!

Making the Extra Effort To Take Care Of Your Baby

Making the Extra Effort To Take Care Of Your Baby

It may be difficult for parents to remain involved in their child’s life, but putting in the extra effort to do so will make a huge difference. One young person recently told us their feelings on the importance of parents working together to to raise their child:

“In my opinion I think that all parents have to care about their child physically and financially. Even if some parents are not together, their child still needs to feel loved by both of them. And yes, they both have to help financially, even if one of them doesn’t want to be involved. And it’s very important that the parent who’s not living with their child should have times to see their child.”

Finding Helping Hands

In some cases, new parents can also turn to other people in their lives to help with caring for a baby. If you are under 18 and have a child of your own, you are still technically your parents’ responsibility. That means they have to support you, even if doing so is helping you find housing because they don’t want you to live at home anymore. If you are in foster care, refer to our Teen Parent in Foster Care and Baby in Foster Care resource pages.

One teen recently told us that Family won’t always be supportive, but it does feel nice when they are.” Another told us “my family was supportive since they day they knew I was pregnant. Even though they weren’t too happy about the news they were there for me throughout everything. I am very thankful to have a supportive family that always helps me.”

Support can come from many places. There are a ton of resources out there for new parents who need help.

If both parents aren’t together and the family isn’t being supportive, there are still programs that can help you raise your child. And if you’re dating someone new, your significant other could be a huge help in raising your child. Teachers, mentors, and other adults from community centers or programs you may be involved in can also help, even if it’s just to offer you advice.

Here are some resources to help you get more information about raising your child, how you can get help, and what rights and responsibilities you and your partner have as teen parents.

Free Programs that Give You Help

Teen Parent Rights and Responsibilities

Getting Health Care for your Baby

Finding Childcare

What are some things you’ve found helpful when raising your child? Where did you find support? Tell us in the comments below!