Young parents face myriad daily challenges, many of them stemming from maintaining employment that pays family-sustaining wages while balancing parenting and educational goals. The strain these parents face has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has brought economic turmoil and uncertainty to many young people.
Below are resources, funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, that outline key findings and recommendations for how the private, philanthropic and government sectors can help young parents successfully enter employment and educational pathways that will help them — and their families — thrive.
“Though these resources were produced before the COVID-19 outbreak, they still contain recommendations and findings that are relevant to practitioners and other stakeholders serving young people with children,” says Rosa Maria Castañeda, a senior associate with the Casey Foundation who manages investments in two-generation approaches. “We hope that leaders in various fields review these findings and incorporate them into their visions, work and strategies meant to help this population.
This 2018 Casey Foundation report describes the educational and economic challenges faced by young-adult parents in the U.S. — finding that roughly 70% of children with young parents live in families with incomes lower than 200% of the federal poverty line. Also: more than half of young parents (55%) are people of color, who often face challenges exacerbated by discrimination and systemic inequities, the publication says.
The report calls for:
- better coordination among federal, state and local agencies on funding workforce programs for young parents to help them build their employment skills for high-demand industries;
- expanded access to public benefits programs for young-adult parents; and
- additional services to reduce stress, promote child development and encourage healthy parenting — including more support for family-planning, health and childcare.
This 2019 study by the Child and Family Research Partnership examines data from more than 2,000 families involved in home-visiting programs — which involve counselors visiting parents to help them build their parenting skills and connections with support services. The report compares characteristics, participation rates and outcomes for younger and older parents, exploring, in particular, the role fathers play in the process.
Key findings include:
- younger parents may face more barriers to participation and continuation in home-visiting programs than older parents — but they are also more likely to quickly follow up on their children’s developmental and health-screenings; and
- families that include fathers in the program tend to face fewer risk factors and may engage more deeply.
Also produced by the Child and Family Research Partnership, this 2019 paper presents findings from nine focus groups in Texas with young-adult parents and representatives of organizations that serve them. The report finds that many young fathers and mothers need support and mentorship on parenting, including how to co-parent and manage conflicts.
Key recommendations for service providers include:
- structure hours and programs around the needs of parents who are balancing work, education and family; and
- help young parents find mentorship, advice and coaching on parenting — as many report being isolated and lacking adult role models.
This 2018 Urban Institute paper highlights promising features and practices from programs providing workforce and educational opportunities for young parents across the nation and calls for additional funding for these services. For instance, one group spotlighted is Climb Wyoming, an employment-training nonprofit that conducts research to ensure it provides young parents with training opportunities based on employer demand.
Early childhood and higher education systems can coordinate their work to increase economic mobility for American families, according to this 2019 report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. The report’s recommendations include:
- require education systems and public benefits agencies at the local, state and national levels to coordinate on collecting data on student parents and programs that support them;
- increase funding and access to childcare for student parents; and
- use federal, state and nonprofit programs to connect low-income student parents with affordable, quality childcare.
This 2019 publication from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research considers how college promise programs — which offer scholarships that cover much or all of students’ tuition and fees — can be tailored to better help students with children. The authors suggest:
- removing requirements that limit participation in college promise programs, such as limiting access to recent high school graduates;
- allowing student parents to remain on benefits programs longer, because they typically take longer to complete their degrees; and
- offering supportive services, such as academic coaching and help finding and paying for childcare.
This 2020 paper by National Crittenton and Katcher Consulting is built on interviews, listening sessions and surveys with young-adult parents and staff at organizations that serve them. The paper proposes an approach to young-parent advocacy that includes building:
- an advocates’ circle for young parents where they can share experiences, inform and shape policy ideas and build organizing skills; and
- a broader network of young-parent advocates working with key organizations and allies.
Young parents who work and pursue education or training need support for their educational costs and help finding and affording childcare, says this 2019 publication from the Urban Institute.
Key findings include:
- young parents juggling both work and school typically spend 14% of their household income on childcare, twice what the federal government recommends;
- these parents also spend 47 hours a week, on average, in work and school combined — about 10% more than the commitments of young parents who only work; and
- many young parents rely on family members to care for their children in the evenings and on weekends, as finding and affording childcare during nontraditional hours is difficult.
For this report, Urban Institute researchers examined data on young parents from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth to find trends in employment, education, workforce training and other areas.
The publication, which was released in 2019, finds:
- every 10 months that young parents spend combining work and education during their 20s is associated with a $4,510 increase in family income by age 30 (though other factors are relevant, too);
- African American and Latino young parents see the most dramatic changes, with every 10 months of combining work and education associated with more than $4,000 increases in individual income (compared to only $2,750 for white young parents); and
- young parents who are “disconnected” — neither working nor in school or training — experience a decrease in income by age 30.
This publication, based on interviews with more than 100 young parents in 2018 and 2019, finds that many young people with children, particularly mothers of color, report:
- feeling alone and lacking support;
- struggling to find and keep affordable housing, quality health care and childcare; and
- facing challenges balancing parenting, educational goals and jobs that pay family-sustaining wages while maintaining access to public benefits.
Among other things, young parents interviewed for the report, produced by the nonprofit, United Parent Leaders Action Network, recommend:
- increasing and expanding affordable housing and childcare programs;
- developing more support groups and resource centers for young parents; and
- advocating for flexible work policies that help them manage parenting responsibilities.
The Center for Law and Social Policy hosted focus groups in 2017 and 2018 made up of mostly rural, urban and Native American young mothers in six states — Alabama, California, Colorado, Maryland, North Carolina and Texas — to better understand their mental health needs. In the discussions, young mothers reported feeling:
- worried about a lack of access to quality employment, which caused instability;
- stressed if they lived in low-income neighborhoods — citing violence in their communities as key obstacles to their mental health; and
- that the day-to-day challenges of caring for their children required them to relinquish their personal, educational and career goals.
The brief offers recommendations that it argues would improve young parents’ mental health, including:
- boosting access to public benefits, such as child-care subsidies;
- increasing investment in programs that connect young parents with educational and employment pathways; and
- employing community-based violence prevention strategies to make communities safer.