Nation Is Missing Opportunities to Strengthen More Than 6 Million Futures as Young Parents Lack Resources to Ensure Families Thrive

Posted September 25, 2018
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Nation Is missing opportunities to strengthen families led by young adult parents

The Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion today remind­ed pol­i­cy­mak­ers and child advo­cates of the bar­ri­ers young fam­i­lies face — and poten­tial solu­tions that can help them thrive — with the release of Open­ing Doors for Young Par­ents, the lat­est KIDS COUNT® pol­i­cy report. The 50-state report spot­lights a pop­u­la­tion of more than 6 mil­lion, includ­ing 2.9 mil­lion young adult par­ents, ages 18 to 24, and 3.4 mil­lion chil­dren nation­wide liv­ing with young par­ents. With lim­it­ed access to oppor­tu­ni­ties to advance their edu­ca­tion and find a fam­i­ly-sus­tain­ing job, young par­ents face bar­ri­ers to sup­port­ing their chil­dren and ful­fill­ing their own potential.

Down­load Our Report

The Foun­da­tion empha­sized that with­out ade­quate sup­port and resources, young par­ents and their chil­dren are at risk of being left behind per­ma­nent­ly. If we don’t sup­port young peo­ple when they become par­ents, we are cheat­ing two gen­er­a­tions out of hav­ing a pos­i­tive future,” warned Casey Foun­da­tion Pres­i­dent and CEO Patrick McCarthy. We can help young adult par­ents devel­op the skills they need to raise their chil­dren, con­tribute to their com­mu­ni­ties and dri­ve our nation­al econ­o­my forward.”

Rough­ly 70% of chil­dren with young adult par­ents live in fam­i­lies with incomes less than 200% of the fed­er­al pover­ty lev­el. More than half of young par­ents (55%) are peo­ple of col­or, fac­ing chal­lenges exac­er­bat­ed by dis­crim­i­na­tion and sys­temic inequities, and their chil­dren stand to suf­fer the most.

By help­ing young adult par­ents nav­i­gate the dif­fi­cult tran­si­tions to work and high­er edu­ca­tion along­side par­ent­hood, we can change the odds for them and their chil­dren,” says Rosa Maria Cas­tañe­da, senior asso­ciate at the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion. The right set of poli­cies and ser­vices for young par­ents can help ensure they, their chil­dren, and our coun­try all suc­ceed together.”

Nation­al Trends on Young Parents

The report under­scores the fol­low­ing trends as well as areas of concern:

  • Edu­ca­tion can make a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence in earn­ing pow­er for fam­i­lies; sin­gle moth­ers with asso­ciate degrees earn an aver­age of $152,927 more over their life­times than high school grad­u­ates, and $296,044 more with bachelor’s degrees. Young par­ents, how­ev­er, are less like­ly to be in school than non­par­ents their age and more like­ly to be work­ing full time.
  • Fam­i­ly-sus­tain­ing jobs increas­ing­ly require post-sec­ondary edu­ca­tion and spe­cial­ized skills, and young par­ents who have lim­it­ed resources, edu­ca­tion and time are unable to stay com­pet­i­tive in this work­force landscape.
  • Inflex­i­ble pro­grams and lack of access to sup­port­ive ser­vices remain bar­ri­ers to oppor­tu­ni­ty and fam­i­ly sta­bil­i­ty for young par­ents. Just 5% of young par­ents receive child­care sub­si­dies, even though 63% require child care, and 41% of young par­ents attrib­uted job­less spells to chal­lenges with child care.
  • Young par­ents are more sus­cep­ti­ble to psy­cho­log­i­cal dis­tress, yet many young par­ents have lim­it­ed or no access to men­tal health services.
  • Fathers have a crit­i­cal influ­ence on children’s devel­op­ment, whether or not they live togeth­er, but they are often left out of pro­grams to sup­port young families.

State Trends on Young Parents

  • Okla­homa has the largest per­cent­age of young adult par­ents: 18% of Okla­homans ages 18 to 24 are par­ents, fol­lowed by Alaba­ma, Louisiana, Mis­sis­sip­pi and New Mex­i­co (each with 16%).
  • In Flori­da, Geor­gia, Ken­tucky, Louisiana, Maine, Mis­sis­sip­pi and Wis­con­sin, at least three quar­ters of the chil­dren of young adult par­ents live in fam­i­lies with incomes less than 200% of the fed­er­al pover­ty lev­el. Ver­mont has the low­est per­cent­age (53%); no state is below 50%.

Rec­om­men­da­tions to Sup­port Young Parents

For the past 10 years, the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion has invest­ed in build­ing strate­gies that sup­port par­ents and chil­dren togeth­er — a two-gen­er­a­tion approach to human devel­op­ment. Com­mon-sense pro­grams and poli­cies that already exist, com­bined with some fresh think­ing about addi­tion­al approach­es, can address the most com­mon obsta­cles young par­ents face.

To equip young adult par­ents for suc­cess, the Foun­da­tion offers the fol­low­ing recommendations:

  • Help young par­ents pur­sue edu­ca­tion and employ­ment: States should boost work­force and edu­ca­tion pro­grams with sup­port­ive ser­vices tai­lored to the bar­ri­ers young par­ents face to help them com­pete in a rapid­ly chang­ing labor mar­ket. These should aim to reduce racial and eth­nic dis­par­i­ties with a focus on dis­in­vest­ed communities.
  • Help young par­ents achieve finan­cial sta­bil­i­ty: Gov­ern­ments should make sure ben­e­fit pro­grams do not exclude young par­ents: Con­gress should low­er the eli­gi­bil­i­ty for the child­less worker’s Earned Income Tax Cred­it (EITC) to 21, and states should expand state EITC to all work­ers ages 18 to 25. States should ensure young par­ents and chil­dren have health insur­ance, includ­ing screen­ing for mater­nal depression.
  • Help young par­ents with child devel­op­ment and healthy par­ent­ing: States should pri­or­i­tize evi­dence-based approach­es such as home vis­its; make fam­i­ly plan­ning and repro­duc­tive care acces­si­ble to reduce repeat unplanned preg­nan­cies; increase access to infant and tod­dler care that is both high-qual­i­ty and afford­able; and pri­or­i­tize care that equips young par­ents to under­stand children’s devel­op­men­tal stages.
  • Keep fam­i­lies togeth­er and pro­mote suc­cess for young par­ents involved in sys­tems: States should lever­age new fed­er­al pro­vi­sions to extend addi­tion­al sup­port until age 26 for par­ents in fos­ter care, and they should avoid sep­a­rat­ing babies from chil­dren sole­ly because the new young par­ent is in fos­ter care. Agen­cies should con­sid­er tar­get­ed matched-sav­ings pro­grams such as Oppor­tu­ni­ty Pass­port™ to help sys­tem-involved young par­ents save for basic assets and needs.

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