Enrolling Teenage AFDC Parents in Mandatory Education and Training Programs: Lessons from the Teenage Parent Demonstration. Lessons Learned


Experiences with the Teenage Parent Demonstration have led demonstration staff and Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., the evaluator of the demonstration, to several operational guidelines concerning identification and enrollment of teenage parents.  These are summarized below, along with brief comments on how these guidelines are relevant to implementation of the JOBS program:

  1. Demonstration staff saw important advantages in identifying and referring teenage parents to the program as rapidly as possible after the birth of the teenager's child or, if possible under applicable policy, even during pregnancy.  States' ability to adhere to this guideline in the JOBS program will be limited by rules that exempt children under 16, all children attending full-time school, and pregnant individuals.  States may, however, be able to recruit teenagers in these categories as early as possible for voluntary participation.  Prompt identification and referral for mandatory participants is viewed by demonstration staff as an important way of preventing school dropout, repeat pregnancies, and inadequate parenting.
  2. The demonstration experience showed that, as in any selection and referral process, manual identification of teenage parents by income maintenance (IM) eligibility workers can be subject to error, particularly with regard to teenage mothers who are themselves dependent children in an AFDC case.  It is useful to establish monitoring procedures to ensure consistent identification.  JOBS rules require an IM staff role in orientation about the JOBS program.  To the extent that a state JOBS program includes special services for teenagers, or requires IM workers to identify teenage parents for other reasons, attention to accurate manual identification will be important.
  3. To the extent that a state program requires referral of teenage parents, or their identification as a target group, it is useful for computerized assistance files and related procedures to provide for explicit identification and coding of relationships between children and parents, particularly to link children and teenage mothers who are dependent children in an AFDC case.
  4. Persistent enforcement of mandatory participation requirements for teenage parents was found by demonstration staff to be useful.  Some teenage parents were at first very resistant to participation, but when confronted with active, committed staff and a clear explanation of the consequences of noncompliance, some initially reluctant individuals became more motivated and benefitted from the program.
  5. Program procedures can promote attendance at the initial program session.  Demonstration staff found the following features to be helpful:  flexible scheduling of initial activities, provision of on-site child care, sending separate notifications to case payees if the teenage parent is a dependent child, and systematic tracking of intake attendance and non-response.
  6. Demonstration staff found that initial meetings with teenage parents should be conducted in a supportive but, firm atmosphere -- one that conveys the program staff's interest in helping the participants, but that also clearly conveys the teenage parent's obligation to participate and the immediate next steps in participation.