New Mexico Public Education Department
Why It Matters:
- New Mexico remains more than 13 points behind the national average in high school graduation rates.1 Male graduation rates were 64.6 percent in 2014-2015.2
- Young fathers have lower incomes and lower socioeconomic status than men who become fathers at older ages.3
- Young fathers are also more likely to live in poverty and be unemployed than men who become fathers at older ages.4
- Far too often, young fathers are underserved: programs are usually designed for young mothers, with young fathers often perceived as less important or optional.
- Supporting expectant and parenting young families, including young fathers, helps increase educational attainment and reduce the rate of repeat pregnancies.5,6
In July 2013, the HHS Office of Adolescent Health awarded the New Mexico Public Education Department a four-year grant through the Pregnancy Assistance Fund (PAF) Program to support expectant and parenting teens, women, fathers, and families.7
Through the program, Graduation Reality and Dual-role Skills (GRADS): Making Connections for Success, the New Mexico Public Education Department provides a comprehensive array of services to support the variety of needs experienced by expectant and parenting teens and their children. The program encourages teen parents to stay in school, access needed services, become self-sufficient, graduate, and pursue postsecondary opportunities or employment.
This program has demonstrated success: among 27 sites across the state, 82 percent of GRADS participants graduated from high school in 2013, 77 percent graduated in 2014, and 78 percent in 2015.8 On a 2015/2016 survey administered to adolescent parents participating in the GRADS program, 87 percent of survey respondents reported attending school regularly, and 89 percent indicated having post-high school education plans.9
Through a PAF Program grant, GRADS has been focusing on serving the needs of young fathers ages 14-24. For example, 18 GRADS sites were served by a fatherhood mentor during the 2015/2016 school year. Services provided to young fathers vary across GRADS sites depending on the expertise of the fatherhood mentor and the availability and needs of the young fathers. All young fathers enrolled in GRADS are offered case management through an on-site case manager or a fatherhood mentor. Young fathers also have opportunities to participate in individual and group sessions which focus on issues such as self-care, parenting skills, healthy relationship skills, career planning, life skills, and family planning/contraception. One GRADS site contracts with a clinical social worker who provides on-site individual counseling sessions to young fathers and couples.
Ninety-four of 576 GRADS students during the 2015-2016 school year were young fathers. A needs assessment was administered to 49 young fathers, which identified a total of 155 needs. Of those needs, 26 percent were for education, career/college and/or employment; 23 percent were for father-specific services provided by a mentor or outside fatherhood program; 15 percent were for emotional, behavioral, social and/or safety issues, 9 percent were for basic needs; 9 percent were for child needs; 8 percent were for legal assistance; 6 percent were for physical health needs; and 4 percent were for reproductive health and family planning.
GRADS provides father-specific services such as mentorship and events through Las Cruces Public Schools (LCPS). Partnering with community members, the LCPS GRADS program formed a fatherhood intervention collaborative team called Father’s Moving Forward.
The team sponsored two events for young fathers to help them bond with their families and peers, while raising their awareness of community resources. At the First Annual Dad’s Day Out event in 2015, 63 families came together to play games, hunt for Easter eggs, win prizes, and share lunch in the park while visiting booths for more information on specific programs involved in the Father’s Moving Forward team.
At a magic show event in 2015, more than 118 participants received a book for each child and gained a greater appreciation for fatherhood. William Benjamin, local celebrity, former New Mexico State University basketball player and current state championship basketball coach, inspired young fathers with a speech on what it means to him to be a father.
The New Mexico Public Education Department plans to provide ongoing professional development to fatherhood mentors and other GRADS staff on issues such as engagement strategies for young fathers both in and out of school, retention strategies, and young father needs. The Department will also continue to develop and strengthen partnerships between GRADS sites and community-based organizations, like the Young Fathers of Santa Fe program, to better serve young fathers.
“While we as GRADS teachers offer support for our teen fathers, they need the connection with a male mentor; someone who can offer guidance from a male perspective. LCPS GRADS has been able to hire a fatherhood mentor to work with all three district GRADS programs.” -- Las Cruces GRADS Program
Content last reviewed on December 8, 2016