As told by Nancy Debre, West40 Truancy and Pregnancy Services

“People see statistics about truancy, but they don’t usually think about the human side. At West40, we’ve seen that no student just decides to stop attending school. There’s always a reason and there’s always
a story.

For some students, the problem is poverty. Their family simply needs them to work to help them stay afloat. For others, the problem is a lack of parental support. They’re struggling with the normal challenges of being a teenager, but they don’t have the support system they need to make it through. We have a whole process for intervening with these students, from calling their parents to making at-home visits to see if we can talk through a solution and get the kids back in school. We’ll even pick them up in the morning and drive them to school if that’s what it takes.

But one of the biggest reasons for truancy is teen pregnancy. A teenage girl suddenly becomes an expectant mother and she doesn’t know where to turn. At many of the schools we serve, students can take a pregnancy test in the school nurse’s office. If a student takes a positive test, we’re notified right away and the student will have the option to receive our counseling services.

We talk her through everything, from the basics of what’s going to happen to her body, to how other aspects of her life are going to change. We talk about how her family might take the news; in many cases her mother may have been pregnant at a young age as well and may be very supportive. The student doesn’t know what to expect because the idea of being pregnant in high school likely never occurred to them, so it’s helpful that we’re there to counsel them through it. And since I’ve had two children, I can tell her from a firsthand perspective what it’s like to be pregnant and what it’s like to be a mother.

From the outset we make it clear to the student that being pregnant and having a child don’t have to prevent her from finishing high school and becoming the person she wants to be. It’s going to be a challenge, for sure, but we start working with teachers and administrators right away to develop a plan for how the student can stay on track with their education. We’re there to counsel the fathers, as well, and we can make a plan for them to finish school too.

By being there when no one else is, we can help students face some of their biggest challenges

- Nancy Debre
See all the ways that West40 is helping to transform the lives of students, families, teachers and administrators in West Suburban Cook County.