The demands and costs of parenthood weigh heavy on North Carolina’s youngest residents. A new report released this week, called “Opening Doors for Young Parents” by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, underscores the need for increased programs to support people between the ages of 18 and 24 who have children.
Whitney Tucker, research director with NC Child, says if they’re not supported, the odds are stacked against them.
“They are facing all of the problems that older parents face at a really critical point in their own lives,” says Tucker. “It’s important that we support young parents because we’re essentially able to have this two generation impact.”
There are 134,000 children living in young parent households and 117,000 such parents. The report recommends states provide increased access to child care, housing and employment opportunities.
Numerous bodies of research indicate better economic situations for families improves the healthy development of children and their ability to succeed.
The Casey Foundation report emphasizes the importance of a father’s involvement in a child’s life and their development, but foundation Senior Associate Rosa Maria Castaneda says men are often 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 and to be able to provide for their children,” says Castaneda. “They are really neglected. We should support their involvement. ”
Tucker says North Carolina has a strong community college system, which she says is a step in the right direction in the support of young parents.
“Community college programs often kind of fill in the gaps for a lot of families,” says Tucker. “They’re available in more places. They provide a lot of the kind of on-the-job training and mentorship programs and opportunities for parents to learn really valuable skills.”
Tucker adds while there are educational opportunities for parents, they also need child care support in order to secure employment or additional education.