With limited access to opportunities to advance their education and find family-sustaining jobs, Missouri’s 67,000 young adult parents face hurdles to support their children and fulfill their own potential, according to Opening Doors for Young Parents, the latest KIDS COUNT® policy report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
The Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT grantee in Missouri, the Family and Community Trust, joined the call for action so these young parents can contribute to the state’s communities and economy while raising their children in safe and healthy households.
The fifty-state report reveals that, at 13 percent, Missouri is above the national average (10 percent) of youth ages 18 to 24 who are also young parents.
The report highlights the following statewide trends and areas of concern:
● 67,000 children in Missouri have young parents ages 18 to 24.
● 67 percent of children of young parents in Missouri live in low-income families.
● Only 11 percent of young parents ages 18 to 24 have completed an associate degree or higher.
● 26 percent of Missouri’s young parents are people of color, facing challenges exacerbated by discrimination and systemic inequities, with their children standing to suffer the most.
“Missouri’s Community Partnerships know the challenges faced by young parents. Each of our 20 partnerships, understanding the needs and resources within their regions, facilitate opportunities for young parents through collaboration with local and state employers, schools, churches, and human service agencies to provide the tools for both parenting young children as well as to move these young families toward sustainable economic well-being,” said Bill Dent, Executive Director of the Family and Community Trust.
The report spotlights a national population of more than 6 million, including 2.9 million young adult parents, ages 18 to 24, and 3.4 million children nationwide living with young parents. Opening Doors for Young Parents illuminates the most common obstacles young adult parents face, including incomplete education, lack of family-sustaining employment opportunities, lack of access to quality child care, inadequate and unstable housing and financial insecurity. “In Missouri, with an overall high school graduation rate of 91.5 percent, the 15 percent of young parents not completing high school are experiencing a qualitatively different and more challenging entry into adulthood – less credentials and more responsibility – than their peers,” said Tracy Greever-Rice, the Missouri KIDS COUNT program director.
For nearly 25 years, FACT and its network of Community Partnerships have administered a model program known as the Missouri Mentoring Partnership. This unique collaboration seeks to prepare youth for personal success in employment, education, healthy lifestyles and self-sufficiency through mentored support. Its Young Parent Component works with young mothers and fathers to develop sound parenting skills and match them with supportive, caring adult mentors who are able to help them navigate the complexities of being a young parent.
These barriers threaten not only these young adults, but also their young children, setting off a chain of diminished opportunities for two of our nation’s future generations. But the report includes recommendations for addressing the obstacles that young parents face, most of which can be driven by policy solutions at the state level.
The Casey Foundation stresses the importance of a two-generation approach to equip young parents for success. “If we don’t support young people when they become parents, we are cheating two generations out of having a positive future,” warned Casey Foundation President and CEO Patrick McCarthy. “We can help young adult parents develop the skills they need to raise their children, contribute to their communities, and drive our national economy forward.”
The Family and Community Trust further stresses the importance of helping the state’s young parents access educational and employment opportunities. In an increasingly competitive workforce landscape, education can make a significant difference in earning power for families.