by Trimmel Gomes
The sleepless nights and increased costs that come with parenthood can be a rude awakening for anyone, but the challenge is often greater for young parents.
A new report released this week by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, called “Opening Doors for Young Parents,” underscores the need for increased programs to support people between ages 18 and 24 who have children. Norin Dollard, director of Florida KIDS COUNT, said if they aren’t supported, the odds are stacked against them.
“Young parents also are living below the federal poverty line or within 200 percent of the federal poverty line,” Dollard said; “so they don’t have a lot of wherewithal to provide those things for their kids that we all want to as parents.”
In Florida, 9 percent of people age 18-24 are parents – just slightly lower than the national average of 10 percent. There are 183,000 children living in young parent households in the state. And 64 percent of those households are headed by parents of color, who face additional challenges of discrimination and systemic inequities.
The report recommended states provide greater access to education and employment opportunities. And it emphasized the importance of a father’s involvement in a child’s life and development. But the Casey Foundation’s Rosa María Castaneda said many often are left out of programs that support young families.
“They want to be involved in their children’s lives; however, they’re less likely to be supported through many of our programs and policies to be able to be involved, to be able to provide for their children,” Castaneda said. “They are really neglected. We should support their involvement.”
Dollard added by helping young adult parents navigate the difficult transitions to work and higher education alongside parenthood, the odds can be changed for them and their children.
“You know, young parents, they can finish their high school experience, and there’s childcare that will help them with that. So that’s one thing we can do at the high school level,” Dollard said. “There is federal funding for helping out young parents at the college level. So, that’s definitely something that we should all look into and support.”
She said extensive research shows that better economic situations for families improve children’s healthy development and ability to succeed.
Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service – FL
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