We know that 200,000 teen girls give birth every year in the U.S., but what about the other half of the equation – the 200,000 fathers? Unfortunately, only about 33 percent of fathers under 18 stick around to help raise the child. When you consider that 70% of those teen moms don’t graduate – it’s not hard to imagine why.
For Father’s Day, we are spotlighting one teen dad who takes his role seriously and is actively parenting his child. Meet Ricky C., 19, who brings his 4-month-old son to school with him every day. He is on track to graduate later this year and grateful that Learn4Life has a dedicated classroom for parenting teens.
“They have a crib, so I can put him down for a nap if I need to,” he said. “And sometimes if he gets fussy, my teacher or other students will help me out. I’m learning how to do this.”
Right now, there are 16 parenting students at Ricky’s school in Oxnard, Calif., but he is the only father. “It’s all girls, except for me,” he said. “I don’t know how they do it alone…taking care of a baby is not easy. When my fiancé goes to work and it’s just me, I really see how important it is to have both parents involved.” And he’s right – children raised without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and twice as likely to drop out.
Ricky has a great role model for fatherhood in his stepfather. His biological dad was abusive when Ricky was young, but fortunately his stepfather entered the picture and welcomed his stepson with open arms. “He taught me everything about what it is to be a man. And he loves his grandson so much.”
Great fathers like Ricky are essential to a child’s social and emotional wellbeing. Research shows that children who feel a closeness to their father are:
- Twice as likely to enter college or find stable employment after high school
- 75% less likely to have a teen birth
- 80% less likely to spend time in jail
- Half as likely to experience multiple depression symptoms
The data shows that high levels of father involvement are correlated with higher levels of sociability, confidence and self-control in children. And children with involved fathers are less likely to act out in school or engage in risky behaviors in adolescence.
Ricky came to Learn4Life in 9th grade, after years of being bullied at his previous schools. “I wanted to go somewhere where I could meet some good friends and learn one-on-one from teachers,” he said. “When I came to Learn4Life, I felt they really cared about me and what I wanted to do. School is like my second home. Everyone knows my name and my son’s name, even the security guards and front desk staff.”
Ricky occasionally sees social media posts from teen boys who think it might be fun to have a baby. “I tell them that it is hard work – not just a ride-along. Until you graduate and get a good job, forget about making a baby.”