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A framework for supporting teenage mothers and young fathers

Over the last 15 years, the under-18 conception rate has more than halved, to the lowest level since 1969. This is the result of a long-term evidence-based teenage pregnancy strategy, delivered with concerted effort by local government and their health partners.

Despite the significant reduction, further progress is needed to sustain the achievements, narrow the variation in rates between, and within local areas, and improve the outcomes for young parents and their children. Like all parents, teenage mothers and young fathers want to do the best for their children and some manage very well; but for many their health, education and economic outcomes remain disproportionately poor which affects the life chances for them and the next generation of children.

Every young parent has their own individual story, but the area and individual risk factors for early pregnancy highlight the vulnerabilities with which some young people enter parenthood: family poverty, persistent school absence by age 14, slower than expected attainment between ages 11 and14; and being looked after or a care leaver. These risk factors are reflected in the cohort of young parents in the Family Nurse Partnership trial participants: 46% had been suspended, expelled or excluded from school and 48% were not in education, employment or training at the time of recruitment.

As a result some young parents will have missed out on the protective factors of high quality sex and relationships education, emotional wellbeing and resilience, positive parenting role models and having a trusted adult in their life. For a minority, these vulnerabilities may make parenting very challenging. Almost 60% of children involved in serious case reviews were born to mothers under 21.

Evidence and lessons from local areas show that poor outcomes are not inevitable if early, coordinated and sustained support is put in place, which is trusted by young parents and focused on building their skills, confidence and aspirations.

For most teenage mothers and young fathers this will require dedicated support, co-ordinated by a health visitor, family nurse or other lead professional with the skills to build a trusted relationship.

Early help and effective support also rely on universal services and relevant programmes being aware of the needs of teenage mothers and young fathers and understanding how they can contribute to improving outcomes. This Framework is designed to maximise the assets of all services and practitioners to create a joined
up care pathway. It sets out:

  • the relevance and importance of teenage mothers and young fathers to each service
  • suggestions for tailoring services to meet their needs
  • helpful resources

The Framework has been developed to help commissioners and service providers review current support arrangements for young parents in their local area. While there is no single definitive model of support for young parents, there are key component parts which all contribute to an effective model and which are adaptable to local circumstances and variations in need.