Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Office of Child Support educates about responsibilities and realities of parenting R U Ready? teaching packet serves as an informative tool for educators

Contact: Edward Woods III, Office of Communications director 517-373-7394

Parenting is a huge responsibility full of life-changing decisions and long-term emotional, financial and time commitments. That's why the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Office of Child Support has created a parenting awareness teaching packet that educators statewide can use to help teens and young adults understand the realities of parenting, Director Ismael Ahmed said today.

"With the steady increase in births to unwed parents, it is imperative that MDHHS takes a proactive approach with teens so that our first contact with them isn't after they've had a child," Ahmed said. "Being a parent is not without its challenges or rewards.

"But those challenges lead to rewards much easier when you are truly ready to become a parent."

Preliminary Michigan Department of Health and Human Service figures show that there were 116,056 live births in 2009, of which 41.6 percent - or 48,342 children - were born to unwed parents. That's compared to 1998 when an estimated 34 percent of the 132,263 live births were born to unwed parents.

"The Responsibilities of Parenting - R U Ready?" teaching packet was finalized this summer by the MDHHS Office of Child Support for use by teachers and child support staff who interact with teens and young adults. The packet includes a student and teacher guide, information for teachers and parents, a PowerPoint presentation, and frequently asked questions about child support.

Topics include paternity establishment; the rights, responsibilities and realities of parenting; financial and emotional challenges of marriage and parenting; benefits of both parents' involvement in a child's life; importance of financial and medical support; and healthy relationship skills. The packet does not contain sex education content.

"While parenting offers huge rewards, it is not as glamorous as Hollywood makes it seem," MDHHS Office of Child Support Director Marilyn Stephen said. "It is our hope that teens make the decision to delay parenthood until after completing their education, securing employment and establishing a stable home."

An outreach letter was sent to 830 schools statewide, and so far, several educators have utilized the packets in their classrooms, including Nancy Mack, a parenting class teacher at Holland High School. She had her students make posters and do a writing assignment.

"The students were very interested, engaged and surprised by some of the information," Mack said. "It definitely gets the point across. The overwhelming majority said that they want to be ready to parent."

The R U Ready? packet replaces the department's previous version, "What Kind of Parent Will You Be?" that was created a decade ago. The R U Ready? packet is more comprehensive and is directed to schools and the public.

Washtenaw County Friend of the Court Referee Lisa Wenger said the materials are sure to make students think twice about parenting.

"I'm very impressed with this product and would love to see it in our schools," she said.

To access the packet online, visit www.michigan.gov/childsupport.

For more information about MDHHS, please visit www.michigan.gov/dhs. Follow DHS on Twitter @MichiganDHS or become a fan at www.facebook.com/MichiganDHS.