Raising a Child
This part of the guide explains
• what all parents must do for their children,
• parenting resources,
• finding childcare, and
• what to do when you feel stressed.
Am I old enough to be a parent?
There is no minimum age to become a parent. But you should ask yourself whether you are ready to be a parent.
Being a parent means you and the other parent must care for the child and make important decisions in the child’s life. It is a big responsibility.
Important! It is not your parents’ responsibility to care for your child, even if you are under 18.
Do I have to do certain things as a parent?
Yes. The law says all parents must do certain things for their children, including
- provide food, clothing, shelter, education, and needed health care,
- watch over your child so s/he is safe, and
- give your child a safe place to live.
Both you and the other parent must support the child.
How long do I have to care for my child?
The law says you must take care of your child and keep him/her safe, until the child
- turns 18 (or 19 if still in high school),
- gets married, or
- is emancipated.
And your parents must do the same for you, even if you are pregnant or have a child.
If I am pregnant or have a child, do I still have to follow my
Yes, if you are under 18 and not emancipated. For example:
- if you have a job, your parents can choose to keep the money you earn, and
- you cannot live on your own without your parents’ permission.
Your child will have to follow your rules the same way you have to follow your parents’ rules.
Sally’s pregnant and moving in with her boyfriend. Can her dad stop her?
Yes. Parents have the right and duty to supervise children until they are 18 unless they are married or emancipated.
Can someone help me with parenting?
Yes. Learning about parenting helps all parents. And there are resources in your community for teens who are pregnant or have a child.
- a parenting program at your school, if there is one,
- parenting information at the library or on the Internet,
- a parenting class through
– California Department of Social Services (CDSS), or
– Adolescent Family Life Program (AFLP), 1-866-241-0395.
- Try to remember what you liked and disliked as a child.
- Treat your child the way you wanted to be treated.
- Ask for advice from relatives, childcare workers, and other parents you admire.
How can I find someone to take care of my child?
If you need childcare for a little while, ask someone you know and trust to take care of your baby.
If you need to hire someone, get to know the person or agency. You may want to stay the first time to see how the person cares for your child, and whether they get along.
What if I cannot pay for childcare?
These programs and agencies may be able to help:
- Early Head Start,
- California Childcare Resource and Referral agencies (called R&R, for short), and
- Cal‑WORKs. See Supporting Your Child.
Note: These programs often do not have enough money to help all people. Some of them have waiting lists and they all only help you with childcare for work or school. You are more likely to get services if you get on the waiting list right away, and make sure they have your current address and phone number.
How can Head Start help me?
Head Start helps pregnant women and children up to age 5 who are low-income or homeless.
It offers these services:
- education and special education,
- health care,
- family and parenting support, and
- getting parents involved in their child’s education.
In California, Head Start also provides childcare, jobs, food, and help with housing.
How can I sign up for Head Start?
What if I do not qualify for Head Start?
Resource & Referral agencies will help you find childcare that meets your needs. They have offices in every county in California and can
- help you by phone, in person, or online,
- tell you how to find a childcare provider that is right for your family, and
- tell you how to get help to pay for childcare.
Look for an R&R office near you at www.rrnetwork.org.
Or call 1-800-543-7793.
What if I feel I cannot take care of my child right now?
Being a parent is stressful, especially if your parents or the baby’s other parent do not support you.
If you need help, ask for it. The parenting resources listed above can help you learn how to
- take care of your child to keep him/her safe, or
- find someone who can help you until you can care for him/her.
Who can help me care for my child?
There may be a Crisis Nursery near you. A Crisis Nursery is a place where you can leave your child (under 7 years old) for up to 30 days for free.
To see whether there is a Crisis Nursery near you
- visit www.ccld.ca.gov, or
- call 1-877-KIDSPLACE (for Northern California).
If you think it may be too hard to raise your child on your own, think about adoption. For more information, see Adoption.
What if I hurt my child?
You are responsible for caring for your child and keeping him/her safe. If you hurt or neglect your child, or let someone else do so, you could
- lose your child for some time, or for good, and/or
- be charged with a crime for abuse or neglect.
If you are charged with a crime, you have the right to a lawyer. You can get a lawyer for free if you cannot afford one.
What if I use drugs or alcohol?
You can be charged with child abuse if
- you use drugs or alcohol while pregnant and your baby is born with drug, alcohol, or other problems, or
- you use drugs or alcohol a lot around your young child.
Note: Just using drugs or alcohol while you are pregnant is not abuse in California. But it will be considered in deciding whether your child has been abused.
Will my baby be a U.S. citizen?
If your child is born in the U.S., s/he is a U.S. citizen and will qualify for all public benefits.
If my child is a U.S. citizen, can I become a legal immigrant?
When your child turns 21, s/he may be able to help you become a legal immigrant. Also, if your child has special needs, this may help you stay in the U.S. if you are being deported. But it does not automatically make you eligible or stop Immigration from deporting you.
To learn more, see Pregnant Immigrants and Immigrants with Children.