As the discussion about how best to ensure that pregnant teens and teenage parents meet their graduation requirements continues into the new year, I wanted to be sure to post these recent comments from the head of Mountain Home Montana, a resource and home for young moms in Missoula.

Gypsy Ray actually wrote this a while back but due to some technical glitches I haven’t been able to post it until now. Sorry about the delay, readers, but I’m sure you’ll agree these issues aren’t going away any time soon.

– MM

As a 17 year veteran in the field of social work, specializing in teenage pregnancy, I must say that the closure of the Young Family Program after 25 years was such a disappointment.

Missoula was ahead of the norm with a program like this and now we will behind the times without any childcare programs for parenting high school students. Although the Young Family Program was located at Sentinel High School, it actually served all Missoula County High School students.

Teen parents have so many barriers to completing high school that this is just another reason for teen parents to drop out of high school and get their GED.

Luckily, Missoula has other great programs to help teen parents, just none that provide the childcare and parenting component while teen parents remain in high school.

Teen parents can go to Willard Alternative High School, however there is no childcare available. The EvenStart Program at Dickinson Lifelong Learning Center provides a GED preparation program combined with a parenting program that provides some childcare. However, this is not a high school program, it is a GED program.

Other programs like Futures provide support your teen parents who are pursuing their education including advocacy, support group and case management.

Mountain Home provides housing and support for young mothers and children and require all residents to attend school, however, high school is rarely an option because of the childcare barrier. One of the recent graduates of Mountain Home actually graduated high school last June despite the closure of the Young Family Program, only because she had a reliable vehicle to drive her child to a private daycare and extended family who provided help and support.

In a community where Graduation Matters, I am surprised that Young Families are not a priority. This seems like an easy dropout prevention solution, but the same school system that created Graduation Matters also voted to close the Young Family Program.

Gypsy Ray is executive director of Mountain Home in Missoula.