Guiding young parents

Janice Sunderland

Photo By shannon rooney

Janice Sunderland’s face lights up when she talks about her work with pregnant and parenting teens. A credentialed teacher at Fair View High School in Chico, she has served four years as the Young Parent Program director and the Chico Unified School District coordinator of CalSafe, a state grant focusing on school-age (pregnant and parenting teens) family education. Sunderland is the mother of two grown children. Contact her at <script type="text/javascript" language="javascript">{ document.write(String.fromCharCode(60,97,32,104,114,101,102,61,34,109,97,105,108,116,111,58,106,115,117,110,100,101,114,108,97,110,100,64,99,104,105,99,111,117,115,100,46,111,114,103,34,62,106,115,117,110,100,101,114,108,97,110,100,64,99,104,105,99,111,117,115,100,46,111,114,103,60,47,97,62)) } </script>.

What does the Young Parent Program do?

A primary focus is to keep pregnant and parenting teens in school and guide them through graduation. Every male or female who is pregnant or parenting can be in this program. We link teens to support services throughout the community, such as Family Planning, AFLP (Adolescent Family Life Planning) social workers, public-health nurses, and more.

What is the goal for teens in the program?

Earning their high-school diploma is a big thing, and we transition students into post-secondary education. We’re hoping students served in the program will not be welfare-dependent and will be independent, productive citizens in our community and society.

What happens when the teen mothers give birth?

Their babies start in the Early Head Start Program at eight weeks, and the mothers go back to school in regular high-school classes, except they spend one period in child care, working with their child and observing, and one period with me in the parenting class. I teach positive parenting skills, career planning, family issues, relationship issues, life skills, financial planning, and other skills. I help them understand their baby, their child’s development and literacy development, and age-appropriate play.

How do you feel about working with pregnant and parenting teens?

It’s a real honor for me. I’m very passionate about it. I truly care about the quality of life that my students and their children have. I want to do everything I can to guide them and help them become confident, independent, productive members of our community. I’ve seen many of my students go on to college.

What are some goals for the future?

I try to get the students involved in community service, so I’d like to hear from members of the community who have ideas about that. My belief is that we humans need to give more to our community. I think that’s the way of the future. And I also want to focus more on career planning, including professional visitors sharing about their career paths.