Unified receives federal grant to help student parents stay in school

RACINE — Pregnant or parenting Racine Unified students will get more help thanks to a new grant awarded to the district.

Unified has been given a $200,000 In School Pregnant and Parenting Interventions, Resources and Education project grant, funded by the Office of Adolescent Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the state Department of Public Instruction announced Tuesday. The grant is renewable for an additional three years, for a total of $800,000 in funding, said Sue Stroupe, Unified’s director of health services.

InSPIRE grants are “designed to prevent young parents from dropping out of school, connect them to higher education and teach positive parenting and child development,” according to DPI.

Those are important goals, DPI notes, because “teen mothers and fathers are less likely to finish high school and more likely to face employment difficulties. Their children are also more likely to experience negative outcomes than are children born to older parents.”

The state requires Unified to have a program to support school-age parents and that program has 209 voluntarily enrolled students this year, Stroupe said.

The grant dollars will allow the district to double the number of full-time-equivalent nursing positions that work with those students, bringing the number of positions from 1.5 to three starting this fall. The actual number of nurses will go from two to three, Stroupe said.

“We’ll increase the nursing presence,” she said. “Research shows your case managers will make or break your program and also that nurses tend to be very successful case managers with school-aged parents.”

Those nurses work with students one-on-one or in small groups at school, and they also do home visits. They help students learn parenting skills, nutrition, how to maneuver in the health care system and more. They also help with prenatal and postnatal care, and work with school counselors and social workers to make sure students are on track with their class credits, Stroupe said.

“They’re the ones that probably have the most consistent contact with these students,” she said. “They can act as a liaison between the student and the school.”

The grant will also allow the district to do more with young fathers, providing portions of the YMCA’s Focus on Fathers Program in schools, Stroupe said. Focus on Fathers’ goal is to nurture a healthier father-child relationship by addressing parenting challenges.

The total cost of Unified’s school-age parents program was not available last week.

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