Designing Program Workshops for Teenage Parents: Lessons from the Teenage Parent Demonstration. Introduction


From 1986 through 1990, the States of New Jersey and Illinois conducted the Demonstration of Innovative Approaches to Reduce Long Term AFDC Dependency Among Teenage Parents -- also known, and referred to here, as the Teenage Parent Demonstration (TPD).  With grants from the Office of Family Assistance (OFA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), awarded in September 1986, the States of New Jersey and Illinois implemented Teenage Parent Demonstration programs in the fall of 1987, after an initial planning and pilot phase.  The demonstration programs were known as Teen Progress in Camden and Newark, New Jersey, and as Project Advance in the south side of Chicago, Illinois.  The general features of these programs are reflected in some of the major provisions concerning adolescent parents in the Family Support Act of 1988 (FSA) and the Job Opportunities and Basic Skills (JOBS) Training program it created.  The two States' experiences operating this demonstration program of education and training services for teenage parents provide valuable lessons for other jurisdictions as they develop initiatives to serve adolescent parents under the provisions of the Family Support Act.

In the three demonstration sites, all teenage parents of a single child who began receiving Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) for the first time for themselves and their child were required to attend an intake session where they completed a baseline survey and took a basic skills test.  They were then randomly assigned, for evaluation purposes, to program or control status.  Those assigned to program status were required to participate in appropriate education, training, or employment activities as long as they were receiving AFDC.  Failure to participate could result, after prescribed warnings, in a sanction -- reduction in the AFDC grant -- until the teenage parent complied with program requirements.  The programs provided case management support, child care assistance, allowances for transportation and other training-related expenses, and a variety of workshops designed to develop the teenagers' personal life skills, motivation, and ability to pursue continued education, training, or employment.  Those assigned to control status could not receive the special services of Teen Progress or Project Advance and were not required to participate in education, training or employment, but they were free to pursue other sources of training and education on their own.  A total of 5,297 eligible teenage parents were referred to the demonstration and completed intake during the research intake period (1,218 in Camden, 1,190 in Newark, and 2,889 in Chicago).(1)

The Teenage Parent Demonstration provides useful lessons about the possible role of workshops for teenage parents in the JOBS program.  Although the demonstration was implemented before the passage of the Family Support Act, and workshops are not explicitly called for in the JOBS program regulations, demonstration workshops focused on skills and information that are important to JOBS participants, and workshops are one setting in which States could address service needs that are defined in the regulations.  For example, demonstration workshops served as job readiness preparation -- providing orientation to the world of work, and development of time management, parenting, and life skills that contribute to job readiness.  Workshops can provide opportunities for elements of contextual basic skills education, by integrating instruction on substantive concerns such as nutrition or consumer awareness with development of relevant reading skills.  Workshops dealing with topics such as family planning and substance abuse clearly address supportive service needs.

This report is one in a series of four reports on various aspects of the design and operations of programs for teenage parents on AFDC.(2)  It describes how the Teenage Parent Demonstration programs used workshops -- group sessions combining instruction and discussion on topics relating to the life problems of teenage parents, the skills they need, and the choices they have to make.

This report describes: