There’s a common adage that “children do not come with an instruction manual.” Not only is becoming a parent an entirely new endeavor, but children grow so rapidly that new challenges and needs are constantly developing on the pathway of parenthood. This is why the Department of Child Safety Office of Prevention hosts a Young Parent University: to offer workshops that build family protective factors and strengthen bonds between young parents and their children. This program is offered to teen parents who themselves are in out-of-home care within the child welfare system.

One attendee, a young parent in extended foster care, shared how much she enjoyed taking child development and self-care classes. The resources felt accessible to her, and she left with packets of resources and contact information to learn more after Young Parent University. She appreciated that child care was available so that she could check on her daughter between sessions. “It was fun and educational for young parents. If they want to learn more about being a parent, they should go!” she said.

Young Parent University was made possible through a planning committee, including Prevent Child Abuse Arizona and the DCS Office of Prevention. Robin Smith of the DCS Office of Prevention shared why serving on the planning committee was so rewarding: “I loved seeing the young parents interacting with their children and connecting with other young parents in a similar situation. They were so engaged in the workshops, and you could tell they really wanted to learn how to be the best parents they could be. They asked excellent questions and tried to help other parents by sharing their experiences. One young mother and father described how they overcame newborn parenting struggles through compromise and communication. The education, resources, and community support the youth gained at YPU are what the DCS Offices of Prevention and Youth and Permanency Services are all about. It is a privilege to be a part of strengthening these young families.”

Young Parent University occurs every year. So be on the lookout for next year’s Save the Date to learn more or refer young parents in the child welfare system who could benefit from the information shared!