Mountain View Voice

News - March 26, 2010

Young parents rely on YPP

Adult School program's childcare funds slashed, but administrators remain optimistic

by Dana Sherne

Liliana Ortiz's baby girl was choking. Ortiz was terrified, and she didn't know what to do.

"I was scared, and then I started thinking. And I remembered," she said. She recalled a lesson taught in her parenting class at the Young Parents Program, put her baby on her knee, and saved her life.

Ortiz, an 18-year-old Mountain View resident, is a graduate of the Young Parents Program (YPP), offered by the Mountain View-Los Altos High School District's Adult School. She transferred into the program from Mountain View High in January 2008, a month before giving birth to her daughter, Kimberly, at the age of 16.

YPP is a program for teenagers who are pregnant or become mothers while still students in the Mountain View-Los Altos High School District, and who chose to take classes at the Adult School. Like some dozen other pregnant girls or new mothers each year, Ortiz turned to YPP to finish her high school coursework. Along with the necessary coursework required to graduate, the girls learn parenting skills like the first aid that Ortiz used.

YPP currently serves 14 students, according to Laura Stefanski, head of the Adult School. She said the program also provides childcare services for those students' children — eight infants and two toddlers — so that the mothers can attend classes four afternoons a week.

But due to state budget cuts, the childcare component of the program will lose $17,000 of its state funding, Stefanski said, forcing administrators to reshuffle their resources in order to keep the childcare center up and running.

According to YPP supervisor John Mittan, keeping the childcare center is no small matter, as it makes the Young Parents Program successful.

"The primary thing that we offer that the high schools don't is child care. That's kind of the big difference," he said.

"If you think about young parents ... the most essential piece in the whole puzzle is the childcare."

Stefanski says the administration will find ways to make up the shortfall. She will try to obtain more grants, she said, but if needed there is an adult education fund of $84,000 for childcare programming. She added that although YPP is a small program it's valuable, so such district funds will likely be moved to maintain it.

"We're optimistic that something will turn up," she said.

Major staff cuts cannot realistically be made to the childcare program, Stefanski said, because the majority of its funding goes to personnel costs needed to maintain the staff-to-child ratio required by many of the program's grants.

"That's the only way that the childcare center can be a quality place for all who use it," Stefanski said. "The services here are so wraparound, it's a place where (the mothers) can join other girls in similar situations."

Taking classes with other pregnant girls and teenage mothers, Ortiz felt a sense of community, she said, in contrast to the judgmental atmosphere at Mountain View High. After she got pregnant, she said, most of her former friends stopped talking to her.

"When we were pregnant, we had our feelings lowered," she said. But at YPP, both she and her daughter made friends who they still see — even after graduating last April.

"We're like a family, like sisters," Ortiz said of the friends she made there.

In 2008, the year Kimberly was born, Santa Clara County had a teen pregnancy rate of 14 babies for every 1,000 teenage girls, significantly lower than the state average of 35 per 1,000. This was California's lowest birth rate for teen mothers, even as the national rate continues to climb past 42 births per 1,000.

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