National Children’s Commissioner Megan Mitchell has begun a series of roundtables exploring issues faced by young parents – aged 19 years and below – and their children.
“Young parents and their children are at risk of a range of poor outcomes in terms of health, education, homelessness, and welfare dependency,” said Commissioner Mitchell.
“Our goal is to find out more about the lives and motivations of this group so that we can improve their capacity for good parenting and help them become economically secure.”
There were more than 8,500 births to teenage mothers across Australia in 2015. Research indicates that groups that already experience disadvantage – such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people and those with an out-of-home-care experience – are more likely to become young parents.
Vulnerable young people who become parents also risk removal of their children into the care and protection systems.
“Helping young parents to access health, education and employment opportunities is a good investment for both the parents and their children,” said Commissioner Mitchell.
“An important aspect of this project will be investigating the types of early interventions that can help these young people.”
As well as consulting with experts and frontline service providers, the Commission has provided surveys to young parents to gain insight into their personal experiences. The Commission has already received more than 65 survey responses.
“It is striking to hear young mothers and fathers describe their experiences and the challenges they face when it comes to dealing with negative attitudes towards them, securing safe accommodation and getting a steady job,” said Commissioner Mitchell.
“But it is also hugely inspiring to hear them talk about their commitment to being the best possible parent they can be and their desire to secure a brighter future for themselves and their children.
“These are aspirations that all parents can relate to, regardless of their age.”
The findings of the young parent project will form part of the next Children’s Rights Report.