Sunshine Club brings light into teen parents’ lives

Sunshine+Club+brings+light+into+teen+parents%27+lives

Addison Dobbins, Staff Reporter

Even with birth control and contraceptives, high school students all over the world struggle with teen pregnancy. In 2017 the World Health Organization recorded that approximately 19 in 1000 women between 15-19  in the United States had a baby, and these numbers have fluctuated heavily in recent years. Due to the lack of support within the school or their families, teenage parents undergo rigorous changes to their lives over nine months, and they often choose not to continue their education. 

Young mothers and fathers need to receive guidance and support with their newfound responsibility. Students often look to the school system to find the comfort and support they may need. The LDHS Sunshine Club, an organization for teen parents at LDHS, was created as part of the First Steps Program, to light the way for teenage parents through pregnancy and the first steps of parenthood while still receiving an education. Through the First Steps Program, young mothers and mothers-to-be are put in contact with a parent mentor and attend monthly group support meetings. The participants are also given the opportunity to speak with active community members and agencies like the Laurens Safe Home, food banks, the Department of Social Services, the SC Housing Authority, dentists and doctors. 

The Sunshine Club acts not only as a support group but also educates young parents on experiences that may seem minuscule, like how to install a car seat properly and how to swaddle a newborn safely. Caroline Barker, a parent mentor and First Steps member, told the Sword & Shield, “[Laurens County Coroner] Nick Nichols said that as long as he’s been a coroner, he had never seen a SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) case. There’s a reason for that.” SIDS is the diagnosis given to a seemingly healthy infant who has died suddenly, unexpectedly and unexplainably. In the U.S. in 2018 there were around 1,300 SIDS cases; South Carolina alone had around 126.8 SIDS cases per 100,000 live births, according to the CDC. 

District 55 Parent Coordinator Lynne Todd has worked closely with the Sunshine Club and said that the club “allows girls to learn how to enhance their child’s development at different ages and stages of the growth progress from birth to age five.” Todd also told Sword & Shield that the Sunshine Club allows the members to share experiences and problem-solve together, rather than facing these issues alone.

“Sunshine Club allowed them to develop a connection that each of them could understand,” she said. 

Besides allowing the club members to learn about their children’s development, the Sunshine Club provides the opportunity for the members to continue their education by offering child care scholarships. It costs about $688 a month on average for childcare necessities, not including housing, daycare or formula costs for mothers who choose not to nurse. Not many of these mothers have access to this kind of funding, especially not without full-time jobs, which is why the Sunshine Club and First Steps strive to connect mothers with childcare scholarships in order to motivate them to continue their educations.

 “I remember [one of my students] called me crying one night saying she wouldn’t be graduating and going to college without childcare scholarship help,” Barker said. By helping match scholarships with club members, the Sunshine Club has helped dozens of mothers finish their educations and be able to provide for their children.

Due to the pandemic, the Sunshine Club has not been able to reach out to expectant mothers or hold meetings this year. The club hopes to return safely next year and continue helping young mothers find their ways.