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Report: Diapers Keep Diplomas at Bay for Iowa’s Young Parents


Friday, September 28, 2018   

DES MOINES, Iowa – Young adult or teenage parents face all the challenges as other young adults moving toward self-sufficiency but also have the added responsibility of caring for children. Annie E. Casey Foundation research says Iowa's 28,000 young parents often find it difficult to support their children and fulfill their own potential.

It says many families headed by people ages 18 to 24 live in poverty. Mike Crawford, director of Iowa Kids Count, says the 50 state report shows that Iowa matched the national average of ten percent for people ages 18 to 24 who are also young parents.

"I think the young people want to be good parents and they want to do a good job for the most part,” says Crawford. “I think there's just some things blocking that. One is there's their financial situation. One in five lacks a high school diploma, and only three out of five are employed full- or part-time."

To support young parents, Iowa Kids Count advocates for lowering the age for the earned-income tax credit, additional child-care subsidies and expanded Medicaid programs. Crawford says a greater emphasis on home-visiting programs could also help families get off to the right start.

Rosa Maria Castaneda is a senior associate with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and says young parents often have limited financial resources and education. In Iowa, only 17 percent of young parents ages 18 to 24 have completed an associate's degree or higher. She says that makes it difficult to sustain a family in a society that increasingly requires programs the offer post-secondary education and specialized skills.

"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," says Castaneda.

The report says young parents need increased access to child care, housing and employment opportunities. In Iowa, 37 percent of young parents are people of color, which means challenges can be exacerbated by discrimination and systemic inequities and their children often stand to suffer most.

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