Giving teen parents hope for a bright future

School's in: Young Parents Program participants study maths.
School's in: Young Parents Program participants study maths. Photo: Tony Walters

At just 15 years of age Skye Warren was pregnant, felt alone and uncertain of her future. 

She was not yet an adult but had already lived through two years of a tough relationship and faced live as a young mother without finishing her high school education.

But five years on, a confident Skye, a university student and a mother of two, speaks of family and the future.

“My experience has been fulfilling, scary, but rewarding. I don’t think I could have done a lot of what I’m doing today if it wasn’t for this program.”

That program is the Young Parents Program in Wyong on the NSW Central Coast, an alternative education program established in 2012 to support school-aged young people, male and female, who have had or are expecting a child.

Run by St Philip's Christian College, the program is based at the Better Futures Hub in Wyong and has 29 students enrolled.

The Better Futures Hub is partly funded by the Department of Human Services and donations, but funding remains an ongoing issue.

The program provides a creche service for the young parents and is just weeks off opening a refurbished and fully serviced childcare centre on site.

Program head Marjorie Lamrock said its aim is to validate those who have been marginalised by society.


“Life events have taken them in a direction they weren’t expecting. We’re giving them a future and a vision, not just for themselves but for their children,” Ms Lamrock said.

The program was run out of the Wadalba Community College for two years, but moved to the Better Futures Hub in Wyong in February in an effort to offer “wrap-around services” to students.

Ms Lamrock said it is proven that focusing on education is not enough, without assistance with health care or housing as most students no longer live with their parents.

Centrelink is an ongoing support to parents in the program, assisting everyone from the “teenage mum couch-surfing”, to those who cannot attend class “because they don’t have food for their children”.

Alongside subjects like mathematics and English, students undertake lessons in early childhood and wellbeing.

“We ask them to unpack their feelings not just about motherhood but about society’s reaction to them,” said Ms Lamrock.

 Ashley Fraser,16, is due to have her first child in four weeks and said her experience in the Young Parents Program is incomparable with prior education.

“In a mainstream school with other people it’s so crowded … and being pregnant in the beginning and trying to do that is unbelievable,” she said.

“But with everyone else going through the same things it’s like a little family.”

Allysha Wooden, 20, said it’s the family and the constant encouragement that keep her coming back every day with her son,Tyler.

“Even when I’ve got no money, no way to get here, we still end up getting on a bus,” she said.

“I come back for my son. Before I came here my future was nothing. So coming here, it’s a future.”

Student retention rates at the Wyong program for 2014 are running at 75 per cent, which Ms Lamrock says is extremely positive.

“Some have a history of entrenched attendance issues. We find though, that once they touch base with us emotionally they actually want to come,” she said.

St Philip's Christian College runs a second Young Parents Program out of Newcastle, which offers a similar learning environment.

However Ms Lamrock said the two are run slightly differently, with the most marked difference being that the Wyong program also accepts young fathers.

“This is really unique in terms of a breakthrough model, as we’re actually getting fathers to re-engage with education as well,” she said.

 Alex, 19, said even though he has had a tough time he and his 13-month-old son “love it here”.

“Here we’re not treated as little kids, we’re treated as adults who just need to get that extra step in, to better ourselves to help better our children,” he said.

Ms Lamrock said she lobbied her boss for two years to be posted as head of the Young Parents Program.

“I’m just passionate about it. It’s life changing,” she said.