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Maine’s Young Parents Need a Helping Hand

Only 8 percent of young parents in Maine have an associate degree or higher. (pixabay)
Only 8 percent of young parents in Maine have an associate degree or higher. (pixabay)
September 25, 2018

AUGUSTA, Maine — Young parents in Maine are facing major obstacles to providing for themselves and their children, according to a new report.

There are 10,000 young adults ages 18-24 who are parents in Maine, with about 12,000 children. The high school graduation rate for young parents in the state is among the highest in the country, and more are either working or in school than the national average.

But 85 percent of their children live in low-income families, significantly higher than the national average. Claire Berkowitz, executive director at the Children's Alliance of Maine, said helping young parents reach their full potential benefits everyone.

"Their education and access to family-sustaining jobs is important to their future,” Berkowitz said. “So to invest in these young families, it's really an investment in the future of our state in terms of these children."

She said young parents are still developing themselves and need extra help transitioning to work and parenthood.

Rosa Maria Castaneda, senior associate with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, noted that means making it possible for these young parents to meet their children's needs as well as their own.

"They need access to affordable, high-quality child care and they need health care and they need flexible scheduling to plan for family needs,” Castaneda said; “to be able to combine work, education and parenting responsibilities."

She added that young parents also need access to family-planning services to help avoid unintended pregnancies.

Berkowitz stressed the importance of a "two generation" approach that equips young parents with the tools they and their children need to succeed.

"We need to surround young parents with services that reduce stress and promote child development and healthy parenting so that they can be meeting the needs of their child,” Berkowitz said.

The report makes several recommendations for policy solutions at both state and federal levels to address the obstacles young parents face.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - ME