Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work (MSW)


Social Work


Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

First Advisor

Lea Caragata

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


Learning, Earning and Parenting (LEAP) is a policy directive under Ontario Works that outlines three specific components to ‘assist’ teenage parents complete their high school education and garner important employment and parenting skills while receiving social assistance. According to the Government of Ontario, the three components addressed in the directive include: first, Learning—involves offering particular benefits to teenage parents to facilitate their completion of high school. Financial supports are purportedly allocated to LEAP recipients to ‘enable’ them to attain their Ontario Secondary School Diploma. Second, Earning—focuses on the acquisition of employment skills through training courses and employment opportunities. Third, Parenting—requires the mandatory completion of thirty-five hours of parenting courses for teenage parents, allegedly to improve their parenting skills. LEAP is a program for all teenage parents between the ages of 16-17; the program is compulsory for all young parents receiving social assistance. Teenage parents between the ages of 18-21 are also welcome to complete the program voluntarily, if they have not yet completed high school and meet all of the required components of the program. The research conducted for the thesis was two-fold. The first section of the thesis explores the secondary literature resources pertaining to the evolution of welfare measures in Canada and teenage motherhood, including a review of the historical and moral regulation of women and unremitting existence of patriarchy in society. This section culminates with a policy critique and discussion of the health risks associated with teenage motherhood. The naturalistic and feminist paradigms were the two lenses through which the literature was collected, analyzed and interpreted. The second section involves a qualitative and descriptive study, incorporating the findings and analysis of three sets of focus groups with LEAP participants in Pembroke, Ottawa and Toronto. Recommendations follow highlighting what actions might be taken to improve both the Ontario Works and LEAP programs respectively. It is hoped that the findings generated in the thesis will promote changes to the program(s) to better the conditions for women and their children struggling to survive in the present challenging economy. The LEAP participants are unquestionably strong women of personal and collective agency and resistance. In anticipate that they will continue to be empowered to achieve the changes they so long to see and ultimately realize their fullest potential in society.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season