I’m 23 years young, single parent father to my five-year old son. After a 16 month process the local authority gave me sole custody of my son. It took a 6-month court battle which was a long emotionally and physically draining time. I became a young dad at the age of 17. It was unplanned and I was told the news whilst studying A-levels in college.
When I first found out I had a child, I wasn’t in an established relationship with the mother of my son - we were just dating.
During her pregnancy I became very isolated. I didn’t socialise in college. I remember being the odd one out of my peers. But something changed after six weeks of my son being born. Nothing could stop me from being involved in my child's life.
I went on to study a Foundation Degree in Art & Design but when things got difficult with my son, I dropped out, and focused on finding a job. This meant I could do the drop-offs/pickups at nursery. After 3 or 4 months on Job Seekers Allowance, I found myself an apprenticeship in fitness instructing which went well for a while.
My friend told me about getting involved with Straight Talking. I wanted to help young people understand the reality of being a teenage parent; it is not cool as some may have heard - no you won't just get a house to live in and everything won’t be easy. It is tough and it takes will and effort. If you’re like me, some days you will feel like giving up. I found that Straight Talking was doing what I believed in.
I started as a peer educator at Straight Talking which has given me the confidence, skills, experience and the encouragement to share my story and run workshops in many schools and a Youth Offenders’ Institute. I was promoted to a part-time role as an assistant Local Scheme Co-ordinator in September 2016. I'm mainly involved with community engagement and research for North & West London areas. This is a great opportunity for me to learn practically and enhance my skills.
Now I’m glad to have the support and guidance at Straight Talking. This will be great for me to be a better role model for my son and give him a better future. It will also put me in a much better financial circumstance and help me to get off benefits. Most of my family rely on State Benefits. I want to show them that I can be the first to get off State support and have financial freedom.
J, 21, got pregnant at the age of 15.
“I was studying for NVQs at the time. The moment I told my boyfriend I was pregnant, he didn’t want to know. He wanted me to have an abortion.
I was scared, and I didn’t want to tell my parents. In the end, my mum found out. She was very upset and shocked. I waited another two months before telling my dad and he didn’t talk to me for another six months. He was very disappointed.
I had to drop my IT course because of the workload and check-ups. I gave birth just after the exams. It was not very nice walking round school with a big bump with everyone staring at you and only a couple of friends actually stuck by me when I had the baby.
I got back with my boyfriend and really tried to make it work but I finally had the courage to leave my boyfriend after 18 months as he didn’t want me to see my family or friends and he was jealous of anything I did. The violence got so bad that I was hospitalized for a week.
I was staying at home but the situation there was getting bad, so I moved into a mother and baby unit. It was not a very nice place, but I was there for more than two years. I have moved now and I’m living in a council flat with my son.
The hardest thing about having a baby at this age is money. You can’t work because there is nobody to look after your child if you do. You can’t afford the bills and it makes things difficult. A baby takes away your life and you always have to think of someone else before yourself.
I don’t regret having my son but if I had the chance again I would have waited.
I’ve been working for Straight Talking for 3 years now and I’ve been promoted to a management job there, 16 hours a week. It’s built my confidence and it helps me get back into work. It gives me a better income so I can come off benefits soon. I’ve learnt to be much more assertive; to manage staff, and it’s helped me with my parenting as well. I help to come up with ideas and make decisions with the team at Straight Talking. My son will have a better future because I’m not going to be on benefits forever.”