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Report: Young Parents in Arkansas Face Uphill Battle

A new report finds that young parents of color face additional challenges as they work to raise their children and stay ahead financially. (Twenty20)
A new report finds that young parents of color face additional challenges as they work to raise their children and stay ahead financially. (Twenty20)
September 25, 2018

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — 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, Opening Doors for Young Parents, underscores the need for increased programs to support people between the ages of 18 and 24 who have children. Rich Huddleston, executive director of Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, said if they're not supported, the odds are stacked against them.

"What we know about young parents at this age who have kids is that all the big milestones in their life and all the big challenges are really happening all at once,” Huddleston said; “and it makes these parents and their kids especially vulnerable."

In Arkansas, 13 percent of people age 18-24 are parents, placing Arkansas over the national average of 10 percent. There are 38,000 children living in young parent households and 34,000 such parents. One-third of those are people of color, who face additional challenges of discrimination and systemic inequities.

The report recommended states provide increased access to child care, housing and employment opportunities.

The Casey Foundation report emphasized the importance of a father's involvement in a child's life and their development, but senior associate at the foundation Rosa Maria Castaneda said 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,” Castaneda said. “They are really neglected. We should support their involvement. "

Huddleston said Arkansas does have some examples of efforts that have made a difference in the lives of young parents, such as the Career Pathways Initiative that offers bundled services for young students in community colleges, many of whom are parents.

"That program's been very successful, but quite frankly it's way underfunded, and that's a shining example of what states can do if they put their minds to it,” he said. “But we need much more examples like that, if we're really going to be serious about supporting our young parents. "

He added that numerous bodies of research indicating better economic situations for families improves the healthy development of children and their ability to succeed.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - AR