Partnering With Expectant and Parenting Youth to Strengthen Communities

Posted December 16, 2019
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Young parent with infant child

Research reveals numer­ous ben­e­fits of youth-adult part­ner­ships. Through authen­tic youth engage­ment, young peo­ple can use their unique expe­ri­ences — and exper­tise — to shape bet­ter futures for those tran­si­tion­ing from fos­ter care to adult­hood. Toward that end, it is impor­tant to include a range of per­spec­tives, includ­ing those of expec­tant and par­ent­ing youth, who may have sched­ul­ing and day care needs, among oth­ers, that must be con­sid­ered so they have the best oppor­tu­ni­ties to participate.

We must be inten­tion­al in how we engage with young par­ents, espe­cial­ly those in the fos­ter care sys­tem,” says Tam­mi Flem­ing, senior asso­ciate with the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Jim Casey Youth Oppor­tu­ni­ties Ini­tia­tive®. Expec­tant and par­ent­ing youth have impor­tant expe­ri­ences to bring to the table, and by accom­mo­dat­ing their unique needs, we can ensure high­er lev­els of youth-adult part­ner­ship participation.”

Remem­ber­ing that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to authen­tic youth engage­ment can cre­ate oppor­tu­ni­ties for more tar­get­ed, strate­gic youth-adult part­ner­ships. A few ways to effec­tive­ly engage young par­ents include:

  • Offer­ing var­i­ous ways and oppor­tu­ni­ties to par­tic­i­pate — Be flex­i­ble. Many young par­ents want to advo­cate for them­selves and oth­ers but are often man­ag­ing busy sched­ules that include school, work and rela­tion­ships on top of their roles as par­ents. Find ways they can be a part of the con­ver­sa­tion. Con­sid­er sched­ul­ing con­ver­sa­tions after reg­u­lar busi­ness hours, such as Sat­ur­day morn­ings or dur­ing child(ren)’s nap time.
  • Pro­vid­ing train­ing to equip young par­ents to con­tribute in a mean­ing­ful way — Expec­tant and par­ent­ing youth bring valu­able insights, but shar­ing those expe­ri­ences can be over­whelm­ing. Train­ing can help pre­pare them to effec­tive­ly share their sto­ries in a com­mu­ni­ty, pro­fes­sion­al or aca­d­e­m­ic set­ting. Plan time for them to brain­storm, ask ques­tions, pre­pare and then debrief to enable them to build on their expe­ri­ences and gain increas­ing confidence.
  • Clar­i­fy­ing the roles and con­tri­bu­tions of young par­ents — Clear­ly define the young parent’s role in a par­tic­u­lar engage­ment oppor­tu­ni­ty to avoid con­fu­sion about why they have been invit­ed to par­tic­i­pate. A clear under­stand­ing can help the young per­son bet­ter pre­pare and man­age expectations.
  • Bud­get­ing for the cost of engag­ing young par­ents — Recruit­ing, prepar­ing and sup­port­ing young par­ents should be inten­tion­al and thought­ful. Fac­tor in the cost for cre­at­ing a valu­able expe­ri­ence, such as pro­vid­ing on-site child care sup­port so they can par­tic­i­pate with­out dis­trac­tion or con­cerns about the well-being of their children.

Engag­ing young peo­ple can yield improved self-esteem, lead­er­ship, advo­ca­cy and pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment skills that can result in greater involve­ment in their communities.

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