I’m 16 and have a baby. Can I move out?
One of the questions we receive from youth is “I have a baby. Can I move out?” We receive questions about moving out at 17, or if youth are allowed to move out of their parent’s home, but this may be one of the more serious and time-sensitive issues that we deal with. The reason for this is that the youth is not only in danger of ending up on the street, but they may also endanger the infant by exposing them to the elements of an uncertain living situation.
Youth that are pregnant or who may be pregnant are in a specific type of crisis. It is our responsibility to assess their situation and assist them in creating a plan of action that will keep them and their unborn or newborn infant safe and off the street. One example is Megan,* a subject in our Runaway Reality series. Megan contacted NRS, afraid that she might be pregnant and wanted to run away.
Fifteen-year-old Megan* called the National Runaway Safeline (NRS) at 10 PM from Red Lodge, Montana. She wanted to run away from home because she might be pregnant. Megan was terrified of how her dad would react…. Although she was feeling overwhelmed, Megan did know that if she was pregnant, she wanted an abortion.
Our frontline member was able to speak with Megan about her situation. He was able to get a detailed history from Megan and her choices. He was also able to help Megan gain perspective on her situation and determine her immediate needs. Before ending the call, Megan had a solid plan in place, asking a family friend to act as a mediator between her and her father. She also had a solid understanding of her next steps if she was indeed pregnant.
Each case is unique and requires different resources and care. We asked our staff members how they have approached situations like this and they shared their perspectives.
A Crisis Services Center Supervisor:
We have to be really careful as this type of question usually involves a lot of legal questions. We often refer to Sex, etc. however, we still encourage young parents to reach out to law enforcement or legal aid when it comes to these issues. The general consensus (which can be different from state to state) is you’re still a minor regardless of being a parent unless you’ve been emancipated. However, you may have additional reproductive/sexual health rights and rights to your child as a minor.
Lindsey Kahney, Runaway Prevention Specialist:
I think when we talk with youth who have children, it’s still going through the (runaway prevention) model and asking the same questions but there is that added layer of not only do you have to think about your safety but you also have to consider the safety of your child. So, normally, if I get a question like that I will be honest that they are still considered a minor and could be listed as a runaway, but also focus on what their current situation is and get them to think about what is going to be the safest solution for both themselves and their child.
Andrea Medina, Community Engagement Specialist:
We want to let you know that we are not legal experts here, meaning that we are only able to speak in general terms. In most states, at 16 you are still considered a minor regardless of the situation, which means that if you were to leave without parental consent, your parents are able to file a runaway report. If a report is filed and you are found, typically you would be forced to return home. The part you may want to be weary of is that if you are found living with another adult, that adult could be charged with harboring a runaway. The charges for that vary from fines to jail time. The best way to find out the answers to your questions is by reaching out to your local police department and asking some general questions. If you are able to give us a call, we would be able to reach out to your local police department and ask some general questions about your situation without disclosing any information about who you are.
As you can see, each approach is unique, but the similar theme throughout is maintaining the safety of you and your child. Our goal is to help you stay safe and off the street, and help you create a plan of action for your next move. We also direct you to resources in your area that can help.
Are you in need of help? We are here to listen.
*Names and locations have been changed to respect anonymity