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Report: Virginia's Young Adult Parents Face Stacked Challenges

In Virginia, 69 percent of children of young parents live in low-income families according to the latest KIDS COUNT policy report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. (Pixabay)
In Virginia, 69 percent of children of young parents live in low-income families according to the latest KIDS COUNT policy report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. (Pixabay)
September 25, 2018

RICHMOND, Va. — 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 Tuesday 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. Margaret Nimmo Holland, executive director of Voices for Virginia's Children, said if they're not supported, the odds are stacked against them.

"Many of them have not completed their education, and a disproportionate number of them are living in economically disadvantaged households,” Holland said. “So, their earning potential, their ability to provide for the needs of their children, is somewhat limited."

In Virginia, 8 percent of people aged 18-24 are parents - lower than the national average of 10 percent. But there are 68,000 children living in young-parent households. And 51 percent are households 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 Maria 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, and to be able to provide for their children,” Castaneda said. “They are really neglected. We should support their involvement."

Holland cited examples of efforts that have made a difference in the lives of young parents in Virginia.

"These are programs such as CHIP of Virginia and Healthy Families of Virginia, that are two of our home-visiting programs that have an evidence base to support the outcomes that they are helping families achieve,” Holland said.

She added extensive research shows that better economic situations for families improve children's healthy development and ability to succeed.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - VA