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


In September 1986, the Office of Family Assistance (OFA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) awarded grants to the States of New Jersey and Illinois to establish and operate demonstration programs of innovative approaches to reducing long-term welfare dependency among teenage parents receiving AFDC.  Teenage Parent Demonstration programs were implemented in the fall of 1987, as the Teen Progress program 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 and the Job Opportunities and Basic Skills (JOBS) Training program it created.

In these programs, all teenage parents of a single child who began receiving AFDC for the first time for themselves and their child were required to attend a baseline intake session, and 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.  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 readiness to pursue continued education, training, or employment.  Those assigned to control status could not receive the special services of Teen Progress and Project Advance, and were not required to participate in education, training or employment, but were free to pursue other sources of training and education on their own.

A total of 5,962 eligible teenage parents were referred to the demonstration programs during the period of intake to the research sample -- 1,256 in Camden, 1,346 in Newark, and 3,360 in Chicago.(2)  The process of identifying teenage parents and getting them to attend the mandatory baseline intake session required careful operational design and close program management.  It became clear in the demonstration that without an effective "front-end" to identify teenage parents and enforce requirements for the first step into the program, the concept of a universally applicable mandatory program is unlikely to be fully realized.  Although JOBS program rules define the population of teenage participants somewhat differently, the demonstration experiences of New Jersey and Illinois can be viewed as useful guidance for implementation of JOBS program features concerning teenage parents.