UCAN's Teen Parenting Service Network (TPSN) recently piloted its new program called Baby University. Teen parents face significant challenges and risk factors which can jeopardize their success as parents. The Baby University program was developed to help teen parents and their children develop healthy parent and child relationships by targeting children's literacy, development and attachment to strengthen the bond between parent and child.
One of TPSN's priorities is to offer support and provide resources to help these young parents both better manage their parenting responsibilities and gain a better understanding of early literacy development through everyday activities. Research has shown that early literacy not only increases future academic success for children, but that it also increases the attachment between parent and child. Baby University provides support to teen parents through coaching appropriate parenting skills and establishing reading as an important component of the daily routine. It increases knowledge, support and confidence of teen parents, and utilizes a research-based curriculum which identifies the parent as the most consistent and pervasive force shaping the life of the child.
Programming is concurrent for both the parents and their children. When the parents are in workshops, their children are in daycare focusing on early learning. Aisha Bell, TPSN's Family Support Supervisor, operates and implements the curriculum. "The focus of Baby University is to teach basic parenting skills, stress the importance of reading, build relationships with other teen parents, and learn how to establish a routine for your child." Aisha explains that many of the parents that attended the first session had children of different ages, enabling them to share their experiences and learn from each other.
The curriculum is spread over a time period of eight weeks, and focuses on parts of the Partners in Parenting Education Curriculum (PIPE). The PIPE curriculum is child-focused, experimental and based on educational and psychological research. The activities and presentations are led by TPSN's Family Support Services staff as well as experienced guest teachers. Throughout the eight weeks, parents were given free books, regularly tested on their knowledge and asked for feedback.
The feedback from parents who attended the first session has been very positive. Bell said, "One of the parents told us that her mom was teaching her how to do something a certain way, and the young parent corrected her and said that she had learned how to do it a better way at Baby University." TPSN will be reviewing the results of evaluations to form recommendations for future implementations of this program in the upcoming year.