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: 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.

What is a legal father?

A legal father is the man recognized by the state as the child’s father. Sometimes legal recognition of the father is called paternity.