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Report Exposes Challenges Facing Wyoming's Young Parents

A new report finds that, at 15 percent, Wyoming is above the national average (10 percent) of youth ages 18 to 24 who are also young parents. (Pixnio)
A new report finds that, at 15 percent, Wyoming is above the national average (10 percent) of youth ages 18 to 24 who are also young parents. (Pixnio)
September 27, 2018

LARAMIE, Wyo. – Parenting can be a challenge for Wyoming's most financially secure residents, but hardships can be even greater for young adults.

A new report from The Annie E. Casey Foundation says investing in programs for young parents between 18 and 24 is key to helping them succeed.

Samin Dadelahi, chief operating officer of the Wyoming Community Foundation, says strong families are fundamental to creating thriving Wyoming communities, and notes the report identifies key hurdles facing Wyoming's 7,000 young adult parents to support their children and fulfill their own potential.

"They are particularly vulnerable,” she stresses. “They tend to be working more than their peers, they're more likely to be full-time employed.

“And yet they are low income, and they don't have very many opportunities that are opening to them. And so they're kind of a group that falls into a gap."

The report found that 59 percent of children of young parents in Wyoming live in low-income families.

Dadelahi says investing in families can break the chain of diminished opportunities for two generations: today's parents, and their children.

She says expanding successful programs to all Wyoming counties – including early Head Start, nurse-family partnerships and home visits – can help children and their inexperienced parents.

Just 12 percent of Wyoming parents between 18 and 24 years old have an associate's degree or higher.

Rosa Maria Castaneda, a senior associate with the Casey Foundation, says family-sustaining jobs increasingly require post-secondary education and specialized skills, but these parents can't stay competitive in the current workforce because they're cut off from apprenticeships and other programs that can boost their earning potential.

"Young parents have less access to these and they're less able to participate in these programs and not have their education disrupted because they're having some challenges just meeting some basic needs," she points out.

The report's recommendations include both state and federal policies to increase investment in workforce and educational programs, expand access to tax credits for young parents, and lower barriers to affordable high quality child care.

Castaneda says addressing these challenges will help young parents contribute to the state's communities and economy.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - WY