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Steps sought to help young parents

September 25, 2018

Indiana outpaces the national average of youth ages 18 to 24 who are also parents : a population that is typically low-income and lacks a college education, according to a Kids Count policy report released today.

These 84,000 Hoosiers are among 2.9 million young adult parents nationwide. Collectively, they live with 3.4 million children, 89,000 of whom are in Indiana.

The report, titled “Opening Doors for Young Parents,” highlights common obstacles these families face. Hurdles include lack of access to quality child care, financial insecurity and inadequate and unstable housing.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation, which released the report, stressed adequate support and resources are essential for this population.

“If we don’t support young people when they become parents, we are cheating two generations out of having a positive future,” Patrick McCarthy, foundation president and CEO, said in a statement.

In Indiana, 13 percent of adults ages 18 to 24 are parents compared to 10 percent nationwide. Oklahoma leads the country at 18 percent, and Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and New Mexico round out the top five, each with 16 percent, according to the report.

The median family income for young parents is $23,000, which is slightly above the federal poverty level for a family of three, according to the report.

The report found about 67 percent of Indiana children of young parents live in low-income families.

Education can significantly affect earning power, the report said. It noted single mothers with associate degrees earn an average 300,000 more with bachelor’s degrees.

However, only 10 percent of young parents in Indiana have an associate degree or higher, according to the report.

For young parents of color : 55 percent nationwide and 34 percent in Indiana : discrimination and systemic inequities exacerbate challenges, the report said.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation offers several recommendations, including the following:

• Boost workforce and education programs with supportive services tailored to barriers young parents face.

• Ensure benefit programs don’t exclude young parents. Eligibility for the earned income tax credit should be lowered from age 25 to 21.

• Increase access to affordable, high-quality infant and toddler care.

“By helping young adult parents navigate the difficult transitions to work and higher education alongside parenthood, we can change the odds for them and their children,” Rosa Maria Castañeda, senior associate at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, said in a statement.

“The right set of policies and services for young parents can help ensure they, their children, and our country all succeed together.”

asloboda@jg.net

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