The Implementation of Maternity Group Home Programs:
Serving Pregnant and Parenting Teens in a Residential Setting

The Organization and Target Population of Maternity Group Home Programs

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Contents

An important first step in understanding how maternity group home programs operate is to examine their organization and target population.  As discussed in Chapter I, this study focuses primarily on large maternity group home programs, usually consisting of multiple homes.  Therefore, the information described in this chapter represents what is typical among larger programs operating multiple facilities.  We begin the chapter with a discussion of how these programs are managed, describing two types of organizational structures: networked programs and independent programs.  We then discuss the government and non-government funding sources that these larger programs typically rely on.  Next, we examine the typical referral sources these programs use, as well as their referral and application processes.  We then discuss eligibility rules, ending the chapter with a brief discussion of the kinds of residents these programs typically serve and the challenges they face.

How are large maternity group home programs managed?

We begin our examination of large maternity group home programs by considering how these programs are typically managed.  The seven study programs follow two distinct models of management: (1) “networked programs” consisting of several homes operated by different social service providers and linked through a common funding source; and (2) “independent programs” consisting of a single home or multiple homes operated by one social service provider.  Four of the study programs are networked and three are independent. We define and discuss these two program models in more detail below.

Networked Programs. Networked maternity group home programs are those in which one organization manages the overall program and contracts with several social service organizations to operate the homes and provide services to residents. These networked programs are usually overseen by the state or county government agency that is responsible for child welfare issues.  For example, the Massachusetts Teen Living Program and the New Mexico Teen Parent Program are overseen by the state child welfare agencies in these states (Table II.1).  Similarly, the Michigan Teen Parent Supportive Housing Services Collaborative is sponsored by the Wayne County Family Independence Agency, which is the county agency in charge of both welfare and child welfare programs.  In contrast, the Georgia Second Chance Home program is operated by the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention (GCAPP), a private, nonprofit advocacy organization that works to reduce teenage pregnancy in the state.  However, GCAPP runs the program under contract and in collaboration with the Georgia Department of Human Resources, the state agency responsible for both welfare and child welfare programs.

Table II.1
The Sponsoring Agencies of Maternity Group Home Programs in the Study
State Program Name Sponsoring Agency Number of Homes
Networked Programs
Georgia Second Chance Homes Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention (GCAPP) 8
Massachusetts Teen Living Program Massachusetts Department of Social Services 20
Michigan Teen Parent Supportive Housing Services Collaborative Wayne County Family Independence
Agency
3
New Mexico Teen Parent Program New Mexico Children, Youth, and Family Department 5
Independent Programs
Maine St. Andre Group Homes St. Andre Home, Inc. 4
New York Inwood House Maternity Residence Inwood House 1
Washington Transitional Living Program Friends of Youth 2

The agencies that manage these networked maternity group home programs serve two main functions:  (1) providing general oversight and management, and (2) offering ongoing technical assistance and support.  The oversight and management functions of the network agencies primarily involve providing funding to the homes and monitoring them to make sure they are complying with program rules and guidelines. In addition, in the Massachusetts Teen Living Program, this function includes managing the program’s referral process.

In Massachusetts, referrals for most program beds are handled centrally by the Massachusetts Department of Social Services (DSS), the state agency that oversees the Teen Living Program.  DSS employs a full-time program coordinator, who decides which homes  to place teens in when they enter the program.  In the other three networked programs, individual homes generally handle their own referrals.[1]

Network agencies typically provide ongoing technical assistance and support to the homes in their network.  For example, they sponsor meetings several times a year with the program managers from each of the homes in their network.  These meetings typically involve in-service training, as well as discussions and presentations on important issues facing the homes, such as changes in state regulations or funding.

In addition, the networked programs offer ongoing support to the homes beyond these regular meetings, with the Massachusetts and Georgia programs providing the most assistance of this type.  Both programs employ a full-time program coordinator, who provides ongoing technical assistance and support to the homes in the network.  In both programs, the coordinators are in frequent contact with the staff at the homes, typically talking with them at least weekly and often speaking with them even more frequently.  Coordinators are also available to help staff at the homes troubleshoot when problems arise, such as staffing issues or problems with resident behavior.  In addition, the Georgia network agency provides the homes with both monthly and annual reports describing the characteristics of the population they serve and the kinds and amounts of services they provide.[2]  Staff in the Georgia maternity group homes indicated that the information provided in these reports was very helpful in understanding the population they work with and in improving the services they deliver.

The Michigan and New Mexico network agencies also provide some ongoing support for their homes, but on a much more limited basis.  In Michigan and New Mexico, the network-level coordinators (both of whom devote only part of their time to the program) have ongoing contact with staff at the homes; however, this contact is considerably less frequent than in the Massachusetts and Georgia programs.  In the Michigan and New Mexico programs, home staff typically have contact with staff from the network agencies substantially less often than once a week.[3]

Providing a high level of ongoing support to the homes in the network requires considerable staff time on the part of the network agency.  The network agencies in both Georgia and Massachusetts have a full-time program coordinator whose primary function is to provide such support.  In addition, both agencies devote considerable time to their maternity group home programs from other staff members, who typically handle administrative issues.  This allows the program coordinators to devote the bulk of their time to ongoing assistance to the homes. 

In contrast, the network agencies in Michigan and New Mexico do not devote any staff members exclusively to the maternity group home program.  The network-level program coordinators for these two programs both have other duties and devote only about half their time to the group home programs.  Therefore, they have less time available to provide ongoing support to the homes.  In addition, there are generally no other staff at their agencies who devote substantial time to the program.  Therefore, the time these staff members have to devote to the program must be divided between administrative and support functions.

Independent Programs. Independent maternity group home programs are those in which services are provided by one social service organization that operates a single home or multiple homes.  Nationwide, most maternity group home programs are of this type.  However, since this study focuses on larger programs and since networked programs are typically larger than independent ones, we observed more networked than independent programs (Table II.1).

The three independent programs included in the study are organized and managed in fairly different ways.  The Maine program is organized the most like a network.  St. Andre Home, Inc., a private, nonprofit organization founded by a local order of nuns, operates four group homes in central and southern Maine.  The program has a director and financial officer, both of whom work out of the central office.  These staff members handle all financial issues and provide general oversight of the homes.  Each of the four homes has its own director who oversees and manages the day-to-day functioning of the home.  The St. Andre program director oversees the home directors and works closely with them in dealing with the various issues that arise in operating the homes.  She is in contact with each home director several times a week.  During these contacts she discusses staffing issues and problems with residents and thus plays a role similar to that of the network coordinators in the Massachusetts and Georgia programs: offering ongoing support and assistance to the staff in the homes. 

The Transitional Living Program operated by Friends of Youth consists of five residential programs, two of which are maternity group homes.  These five homes in the Seattle, Washington area are all directed by one staff member who works out of the central Friends of Youth office.  Since the number of staff at each home is small (typically two full-time staff, compared with six in each of the Maine homes), there are no home directors.  Because the distinction between central office and home staff is less clear in the Friends of Youth program, there is less of a parallel between the function of the program’s director and that of the director of the various networked programs we observed.

The Inwood House program in New York City is the least like the networked programs, since it operates only one large facility.[4]  In recent years, the organization has been serving 20 to 25 pregnant teens in its one maternity residence in New York.  Inwood House employs a director of congregate care, who oversees the daily operations of the home.  Financial and business issues for the home are handled by the organization’s assistant executive director, who works out of the same facility.

How Are Large Maternity Group Home Programs Funded?

Funding is a central issue for any social service program.  Therefore, when examining the operations of maternity group home programs, it is important to consider carefully where their funding comes from and the amount of funding they require to deliver their services.  In this section, we examine the funding sources for the programs in our study.  In Chapter IV, we discuss the funding levels of each of these programs.

Government Funding. The maternity group home programs included in this study rely primarily on government funding to cover their operating expenses.  They typically depend on one major government funding source, that covers most (two-thirds or more) of the cost of the program.  This primary funding source is then supplemented by funding from other sources (Table II.2).
Table II.2
Key Funding Sources for the Maternity Group Home Programs in the Study
Program (State) Federal Funding Sources  
Child Welfare HUD Medicaid TANF State Funds Private Funds Resident Contributions
GCAPP Second Chance Homes (Georgia) X     O   O  
St. Andre Group Homes (Maine)     X   O O O
Teen Living Program (Massachusetts)         X O O
Teen Parent Supportive Housing Services Collaborative (Michigan)   X       O O
Teen Parent Program (New Mexico) O O     X O O
Inwood House Maternity Residence (New York) X   O     O  
Friends of Youth Transitional Living Program (Washington)   X       O O
X = Primary funding source (covering > 50% of costs).
O = Secondary funding source (covering < 50% of costs).

GCAPP = Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention.
TANF = Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
HUD = U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The main source of funding varies substantially across the programs in the study.  The Georgia and New York programs rely primarily on federal child welfare funds — funding that is received as set monthly payments from the local child welfare agency for providing housing and services to pregnant and parenting teens in the foster care system.  The New York program serves exclusively teens in foster care and relies almost exclusively on these payments for funding.  The Georgia program serves primarily teens in foster care, although the program also serves teen parents not in state custody.  The program uses federal TANF funds to cover other residents and to provide additional services to all residents that are not covered by child welfare funds.[5]

The main funding source for both the Michigan and Washington programs are HUD grants offered as part of the federal Supportive Housing Program.  One of the homes in the Michigan program also receives additional HUD funding through the Emergency Shelter Grants Program.  Because these programs rely on HUD funding, their residents must meet the HUD definition of homelessness as a condition for eligibility. 

The state of Maine relies on a distinctive approach to funding the maternity group home services offered by the St. Andre program.  The state uses federal Medicaid funds that cover assisted living programs to pay for the professional services received by maternity group home residents (such as counseling, case management, and medical treatment).  This funding source covers about 70 percent of the costs of the St. Andre program.  Other program expenses–in particular, food and housing–are covered by specially allocated state funds provided to the program through a contract the agency has with the state to provide residential services to young mothers and their babies.

The Massachusetts and New Mexico programs are funded primarily with state funds (Table II.2).  The Massachusetts Teen Living Program was established in 1995 as part of a state welfare reform initiative that, among other changes to the welfare program, required teen mothers to live in an adult-supervised setting as a condition of receiving cash assistance.  This legislation established a line item in the state budget to fund the program as an option for those who did not have an appropriate relative or guardian with whom they could live.  In the New Mexico program, the primary funding source for most homes is state funding that was specially allocated for the program when it began in 1990. Three of the five homes in the New Mexico network receive the bulk of their funding from these state funds.  One of the other two New Mexico homes receives about half its funding from a HUD grant to house homeless teens.  Another home serves a large number of child welfare cases and receives substantial child welfare funding.

Other Funding Sources. All the study programs rely primarily on state and federal government funding to cover the costs of housing and providing services to their residents.  However, they typically supplement their government funding in two ways: (1) through small monthly payments required of residents and (2) through private donations.  Most programs require monthly contributions from their residents, usually set at 25 to 33 percent of residents’ monthly income.  Often residents’ only income source is a TANF check.[6]  In these cases, residents pay a quarter to a third of their TANF grant — typically amounting to about $100 to $150 — to the program each month.  The primary purpose of these monthly payments is not to provide a substantial funding source for these programs.  Instead, as discussed in Chapter III, programs usually view these payments as a good way to teach budgeting skills to their residents and to prepare them for life outside the home, when they will be expected to make monthly rent payments.  These payments typically cover five percent or less of the cost of operating these programs.

Most maternity group home programs receive donations from private charities and individuals to cover some of their expenses.  These private donations typically cover a relatively small portion of the program’s overall budget.   None of the study programs receive more than 20 percent of their funding from private sources, and usually private funding sources cover substantially less of their expenses than that.  A few programs receive small amounts of funding from private foundations for specific program activities.  For example, one home in Massachusetts receives a $3,000 grant each year to pay for a special nutrition program it offers to its residents.  In addition, many maternity homes are operated by social service organizations that run a variety of programs.  These parent organizations often receive contributions from individuals and the United Way toward all the programs they operate, including their maternity group home.  Both the St. Andre program in Maine and Casa San Jose in New Mexico (one of the five homes that are part of the New Mexico state network) are operated by Catholic organizations and receive some funding from Catholic charities to cover program expenses.  Funding from these religious charities covers about 5 percent of ongoing program costs for the St. Andre program and about 15 percent of costs for Casa San Jose. 

In addition, most study programs receive in-kind contributions from local businesses, civic organizations, churches, and individuals.  These in-kind contributions are often new or used baby items (such as high chairs, car seats, strollers, or toys) or furniture for the home.  In addition, in some programs, local civic organizations or church groups provide volunteers who serve as mentors for residents or perform general upkeep and repairs to the building.

Where Do Maternity Group Home Programs Get Referrals?

An important issue to consider when examining maternity group home programs is how these programs get their referrals.  In this section, we describe the sources of referrals used by these homes.  We then discuss briefly how the application and referral process works in the programs visited.  

Referral Sources.  Although most programs accept referrals from multiple sources, they often have a primary source from which they receive the bulk of their referrals (Table II.3).  For example, the Georgia and Maine programs receive most of their referrals from local child welfare agencies, while the New York program receives all its referrals from this source.  In the Georgia program (which receives two-thirds of its referrals from child welfare), those referred to the program are typically minors in state custody through the foster care system.[7]  In many cases, the homes represent the only setting available where these young mothers can be placed together with their babies.  The New York program has a contract with the city child welfare agency to serve pregnant teens from the foster care system and is contractually obligated to receive all its referrals from this agency.  In some cases, these primary referral sources tie closely with primary funding sources.  Both the Georgia and New York programs receive the bulk of their funding from monthly payments that come from the referring child welfare agencies to cover the cost of housing and support services for these teens in state custody.
Table II.3
Referral Sources for the Maternity Group Home Programs in the Study
Program (State) Referral Source
Child Welfare TANF Agency Other
GCAPP Second Chance Homes (Georgia) X   O
St. Andre Group Homes (Maine) X   O
Teen Living Program (Massachusetts) O X  
Teen Parent Supportive Housing Services
Collaborative (Michigan)
  X O
Teen Parent Program (New Mexico) O   O
Inwood House Maternity Residence (New York) X    
Friends of Youth Transitional Living Program (Washington)   O O
X= Primary referral source.
O= Secondary referral source.

GCAPP = Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention.
TANF = Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

Although the Maine program also relies primarily on child welfare referrals, most young mothers in the program are older than age 18 and are thus not themselves active child welfare cases (although some were in foster care as children).  Instead, child welfare referrals are typically situations in which the baby — and not the mother — is a child welfare case.  In many instances, the young mother and baby have been separated because of a child welfare issue, and the mother must now live in the home as a condition for reuniting with her child.  Child welfare authorities view placement in these homes as an opportunity to reunite the young mother with her child on a (closely monitored) trial basis.  The Massachusetts program also receives reunification referrals of this type from local child welfare agencies; however, these cases make up a fairly small fraction of referrals to the Massachusetts program.

The Massachusetts and Michigan programs both receive most of their referrals from the TANF agency.  These programs were started in conjunction with state welfare reform initiatives that imposed the requirement that minor parents must live in an adult-supervised setting as a condition for receiving cash assistance.  In these states, funding for maternity group homes was secured in response to this new requirement.  When these programs were created, the homes were viewed as a means of providing an appropriate, supervised living situation for young mothers on TANF who could not live with their own families.  Because of this tie to TANF and welfare reform, these programs receive the bulk of their referrals from TANF agencies.  In addition, referrals to the Massachusetts program are closely tied to funding.  The program receives state funding through two sources: the state TANF agency and the state child welfare agency.  All referrals to the Massachusetts program must come from one of these two funding agencies.

The New Mexico and Seattle programs have no primary referral source.  Instead, these programs rely on a mix of referral sources that include schools, child welfare agencies, the juvenile justice system, homeless shelters, hospitals, and public health clinics.  The Georgia, Maine, and Michigan programs rely on a similar mix of referral sources to fill some of their beds.  In addition, these programs sometimes receive referrals through more informal channels, such as friends, relatives, or churches.  In other cases, the young mothers themselves request assistance from the program.  In contrast to the other study programs, the Massachusetts and New York programs do not rely on a wide mix of referral sources.  The Massachusetts program can only receive referrals from a small set of approved sources (the state TANF agency and local child welfare agencies), while the New York program receives all its referrals from the city child welfare agency.

The Referral and Application Process.  Although most homes in the study are part of larger programs, the referral and application process is usually handled directly by the homes themselves.  If a home receives a referral and has a vacancy, potential residents typically complete a detailed application form.[8]  The information gathered on these forms helps the program assess the needs of new applicants and helps the program detect issues that may create problems after the applicant is admitted. In addition, programs usually conduct background checks as part of the application process.  These checks help programs detect serious emotional or behavioral issues.  Applicants with especially serious problems are not allowed to enroll in the program.  In some cases, programs perform psychological assessments as an additional means of detecting potential problems and determining service needs.
INES: A FIGHT WITH HER MOTHER GETS CHILD WELFARE INVOLVED
"Ines" is 17 years old and pregnant with her first baby. She always fought a lot with her mother and for some time had been moving back and forth between her boyfriend's house and her mother's house. When her mother found out that Ines was pregnant, she kicked Ines out of the house. Ines went to live with her boyfriend and his mother. Then child welfare got involved and took Ines into state custody. Ines's social worker sent her to live in the maternity home, where she has been for the past few months. Ines goes to a GED program nearby and hopes to pass the GED test before her baby is born. She would like to go to college, but first she wants to spend some time with her baby. Sometimes Ines thinks the maternity home has too many rules and is too strict. But she still likes living there and thinks the program is helping her get ready for her life after the baby comes.

In many cases, homes require face-to-face meetings with applicants before they can be admitted to the program.  During these meetings, home staff conduct detailed interviews with applicants and carefully review the rules and expectations of the program.  In some cases, would-be residents decide not to pursue their applications further once they gain a better understanding of the structure and requirements that the home imposes.  Some homes interview multiple applicants for a single vacant slot.[9]  When using this method to choose among applicants, staff consider multiple factors, including their level of need and whether they would fit in well with other residents and with life at the home generally.  In homes where multiple applicants are interviewed to fill a single vacancy, staff indicated that this process enabled them to create and maintain a more harmonious environment in the home.  In other programs, homes accept the first applicant who meets their eligibility and screening criteria.

Although most study programs follow referral and application procedures similar to those described above, two of the programs have very different, more centralized, procedures.  In the Massachusetts program, most referrals are handled by the state child welfare agency (the network agency for the program) and not by the homes.  The network-level program coordinator decides where to place new referrals, and homes generally must accept the referrals they receive.  Similarly, in the New York program, all referrals come from the city child welfare agency and the program is generally expected to accept all referrals.

What Are The Eligibility Rules for Maternity Group Homes?

Most maternity group home programs share a basic set of eligibility requirements.  In general, residents must be young single women who are in need of housing and are either pregnant or parenting.  This study focuses on programs that serve primarily teenage mothers.   However, in many cases, study programs also serve slightly older mothers, often up to age 21 (Table II.4).  The Maine program has the highest age cutoff, serving young mothers up to age 24 in all of its homes and mothers up to age 29 in one home. 
Table II.4
Selected Eligibility Criteria for Maternity Group Homes Programs in the Study
Program (State) Either Pregnant or Parenting? Age of Mother Other Requirements
GCAPP Second Chance Homes (Georgia) Yes 13 to 20 In state custody for most bedsa
St. Andre Group Homes (Maine) Yes 15 to 24b Medicaid eligible
Teen Living Program (Massachusetts) Yes 13 to 20 Active TANF or child welfare case
Teen Parent Supportive Housing Services
Collaborative (Michigan)
Yes 15 to 18 Homeless by HUD definitionc
Teen Parent Program (New Mexico) Yes 13 to 21 Varies across homes
Inwood House Maternity Residence (New York) Pregnant only 13 to 20 In city foster care system
Friends of Youth Transitional Living Program (Washington) Yes 18 to 21 Homeless by HUD definitionc
GCAPP = Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention.
HUD = U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
TANF = Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

aThe program reserves some spaces for young mothers who are not in state custody.
bUp to age 29 in one of the four homes.
cSee text for explanation of HUD definition of homelessness.

Most programs accept both pregnant and parenting young women, although residents more commonly arrive in the homes after their babies are born.  An exception is the New York program, which serves exclusively pregnant teens in the foster care system.  New York state law prohibits residential programs for minors in state custody from serving both pregnant and parenting young women in the same facility.  Consistent with this regulation, once residents of the New York program have had their babies, they must be placed in another facility that is licensed to accept young mothers with children.  The Georgia program also serves mainly a foster care population and is therefore subject to state regulations regarding minors in state custody.  When the Georgia program was first being developed, state regulators initially said that the program could not serve both pregnant and parenting teens.  However, program planners persuaded state regulators to allow pregnant teens into the program on a limited basis.  Under current state guidelines, each home in the Georgia network is allowed to serve one pregnant teen every six months.  This rule keeps the number of pregnant teens in the Georgia program quite low.  Most residents enter the program after they have had their babies.

Programs typically serve young mothers with one or two children.  Space limitations lead most homes to accept primarily mothers with only one child.  However, most programs have a small number of slots reserved for mothers with two children.  Most programs do not have specific limits on the ages of the children allowed to reside in the homes.  In general, the age limits for mothers make it unlikely that residents would have children older than three or four years old.  A few programs, typically those with higher age cutoffs for mothers, have specific age limits for children that reside in the home.  For example, the Maine program allows only mothers with children under age three, while the Washington program restricts eligibility to mothers with children who are under age five.

Most programs screen out young women with severe mental health and behavior problems.  Program staff indicated that they would not admit an applicant who had a history of extreme violence or serious mental illness or who was an active drug user.  Home staff indicated that, because home residents share living space, it is particularly important to screen applicants carefully and not admit those who appear to pose a safety risk to other residents.
MARIA: SPENT TIME HOMELESS BEFORE COMING TO THE HOME
“Maria” is 20 years old and has a 10-month-old baby boy. She is from a stable, middle-class family and was attending college when she became pregnant. Her father was very angry about the pregnancy. He kicked her out of the house and stopped supporting her financially. Maria had to drop out of college. She moved around a lot. She spent some time living with relatives and then lived in a hotel for a while. When things got really bad, she had to live in her car. The maternity home took Maria in as soon as they learned about her situation, when her baby was about a month old. Once Maria moved into the home, she was able to go back to school, where she is studying to be a nurse. Maria is on a waiting list for a housing subsidy and hopes to get a rent voucher, so she can afford to live on her own. Maria has a new boyfriend and they plan to get married soon. Maria says the home really helped her get her life back on track.

In many cases, additional eligibility rules for maternity group home programs are tied to their funding sources.  For example, programs that receive HUD funding, such as those in Washington and Michigan, require residents to meet the HUD definition of homelessness as a condition of program eligibility.[10]  Similarly, in the Maine program, which relies primarily on Medicaid funding, residents must be Medicaid-eligible to participate.  In the New York program, which is funded through set monthly payments for serving pregnant teens in foster care, residents must be in the foster care system to be eligible.  The Massachusetts program has specific slots with different eligibility requirements, depending on how the slot is funded.  Slots that are paid for through the state TANF agency must be filled by young mothers who are receiving TANF, while those that are paid for through the state child welfare agency must be filled with young mothers with an active child welfare case.

What Kinds of Residents Do These Programs Typically Serve?

Maternity group home programs serve a very disadvantaged population with many special needs.  Many were abused as children.  Program staff consistently reported that histories of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse were common among residents of their homes.  Residents have frequently had their first sexual experience at a very early age, often as a result of sexual abuse.  In addition, residents often come from chaotic family backgrounds that put them at high risk for abuse and other adverse outcomes.  Many were raised in unstable family situations, often involving frequent moves and a lack of structure.
VICKY: A LONG HISTORY WITH THE CHILD WELFARE SYSTEM
“Vicky” is 19 years old and has a nine-month-old daughter. Vicky was taken into state custody as a baby and grew up in the foster care system. She has lived with so many foster families and in so many group homes that she has lost count. When her daughter was first born, she and Vicky were living with a foster family. However, the child welfare authorities became concerned about the safety of Vicky's baby and separated them. They lived apart for about three months and have recently been reunited at the maternity home where Vicky and her daughter now live. Vicky is grateful to have a place to live together with her baby. Although things are going better now, she says it was rough at first, because her daughter had forgotten her. Vicky dropped out of school when she became pregnant and has not gone back. Now she is working part time at a fast food restaurant and spending time with her daughter. Vicky says life in the home can be stressful. It is hard to live with so many other people, and the residents sometimes fight over chores or how the children are interacting. Vicky plans to remain in the home for at least a few more months and hopes to qualify for subsidized housing where she and her daughter can afford to live on their own.

In other cases, residents have spent many years in the foster care system with little or no contact with their families.  Most residents have little support from family members.  Program staff frequently indicated that their residents had extremely poor models of parenting as young children.  They, therefore, now find it extremely challenging to be good parents themselves.

Consistent with their disadvantaged backgrounds, many residents have histories of psychological and behavior problems.  Although programs strive to screen out residents with the most serious problems, depression, substance abuse, and involvement with the juvenile justice system are fairly common.  Program staff indicated that most of their residents have been exposed to abuse and trauma as young children which has, in many cases, led to serious mental health problems.  Residents are often on psychiatric medication and the need for mental health services among this population is high.  For some residents, substance abuse is also a concern.  Some homes use ongoing random drug tests as a strategy for preventing drug abuse among residents.  In some cases, residents have histories of criminal activity and have been involved with the juvenile justice system.  In addition, residents have frequently dropped out of school prior to entering the home.  Many have spent a year or more out of school before enrolling in the program.

The information on resident characteristics provided by program staff underscores the complex challenges facing many maternity group home residents as they struggle to become successful parents and prepare to live independently.  Many face serious obstacles, including mental health and substance abuse issues, poor school performance, and limited or no familial support. As described in the next chapter, maternity group home programs provide an intensive array of support services designed to help these young mothers meet these challenges and make a successful transition to parenthood and independent living.

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Endnotes

[1] In the Michigan program, although the network agency (Wayne County Family Independence Agency, which oversees the TANF program) does not oversee the referral process, TANF case workers from the agency participate in the interview and application process for all potential new residents of the homes.

[2] GCAPP (the Georgia network agency) contracts with an independent research consultant who produces these reports for the program. 

[3] Both the Michigan and New Mexico programs had had recent turnover in key network-level staff members at the time of our visits, which may have diminished their ability to provide this kind of support to homes.  Moreover, in the New Mexico program, this lower level of involvement and support is intentional.  The initial vision for the New Mexico program was that it would be fairly decentralized, with homes operating independently and the network agency playing a relatively small role.

[4] Inwood House also operates a small group home in the city that serves teen parents rather than pregnant teens.  This home has the capacity to serve three teen parents and their babies.

[5] These funds are provided to GCAPP (the network agency in Georgia) through a contract they have with the Georgia Department of Human Resources, the state agency in charge of both welfare and child welfare issues.  These funds cover group home beds for teens who are not in state custody and mental health counseling for all residents.  They also cover the support and assistance provided to the homes by GCAPP.

[6] Since these payments typically come from residents’ TANF grants, they are actually another form of government funding for these programs.  Some homes require residents to apply for TANF as a means of ensuring that they will have income to make these monthly payments to the program.

[7] An additional 10 percent of the Georgia program’s referrals are teens in state custody through the juvenile justice system.  These referrals come from juvenile justice authorities.

[8] If a home has no vacancies, staff usually refer the case to another home in the area.  Some homes maintain waiting lists.  In these homes, staff use names from the waiting lists to fill vacancies when they arise.

[9] This method is used only if the program has multiple applicants to choose from when a vacancy arises.

[10] According to the HUD definition, individuals are considered to be homeless when they:  (1) reside in a place that is not meant for human habitation (such as a car, park, sidewalk, or abandoned building); (2) reside in an emergency shelter or in transitional housing for the homeless; (3) are being evicted from a private dwelling or discharged from an institution, have no other placement available to them, and lack the resources needed to obtain housing; or (4) are fleeing domestic violence, have no other appropriate place to live, and lack the resources needed to obtain housing.


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