The Implementation of Maternity Group Home Programs: Serving Pregnant and Parenting Teens in a Residential Setting. The Teen Parent Program (New Mexico)

04/22/2005

Basic Program Structure. The New Mexico Teen Parent Program (TPP), which is managed by the state's Children, Youth, and Family Department (CYFD), funds five group homes and three non-residential programs for pregnant and parenting teens throughout the state. The five homes have the capacity to serve 38 pregnant and parenting teens and their children. The program began operating in 1990 and is the oldest statewide network of maternity group homes in the country. The state program imposes broad guidelines on the services the homes it funds should offer. However, by design, program operations are highly decentralized, and individual homes have considerable flexibility in determining the specific services they offer and population they serve. State officials consider it very important for the local organizations that run these homes to have the flexibility to design programs that are appropriate for the needs of their community. The five TPP homes operate fairly independently of each other. However, the homes' directors meet a few times a year to discuss funding, services, referrals, and other issues.

Funding Sources and Levels. TPP provides $500,000 annually toward the operating expenses at the five homes. TPP grants to the individual homes range from $55,000 to $165,000 per year. For three of the five homes, TPP funding covers most (80 percent or more) of their operating budget. For these homes, most additional funding comes from regular payments required of residents, typically $150 per month paid out of their TANF checks. The other two homes receive substantial funding from other sources to cover their operating expenses. One of these homes receives only about half its funding from its TPP grant; the rest comes from a HUD grant to house homeless teens, as well as a government grant to fund housing for teens transitioning out of the foster care system. The other TPP home (which, unlike the other homes in the network, serves primarily teens referred from child protective services) receives just over half its funding from government grants to cover services for teens in the child welfare system. This home also receives about 15 percent of its funding from Catholic charities, so that its TPP grant covers less than a third of its operating budget. Monthly operating costs vary substantially across the five homes and range from about $1,300 to $3,300 per bed per year. Homes with higher per-resident costs tend to be smaller, have more staff, and provide a somewhat more intensive set of services for residents.

Eligibility Rules and Referral Sources. The homes serve pregnant or parenting young women who must enter the program before their 20th birthday and can remain until they turn 21. Residents must be eligible for Medicaid. In addition, they must be willing to follow program rules and attend school to remain in the program. Some homes have additional eligibility requirements, such as meeting the HUD definition of homelessness, a requirement for homes that receive HUD funding. The five TPP homes all handle their own referrals and applications. Homes will refer teens to another TPP home if their home is full. However, because the homes are located far apart geographically, teens are often unwilling to consider placement in one of the other homes. Referrals for the five TPP homes come from a variety of sources, including schools, hospitals, the juvenile justice system, and child welfare agencies.

Setting and Structure of the Homes. The setting and physical structures of the five TPP homes vary substantially. One home is in Albuquerque (the state's largest city); others are in small towns several hours from Albuquerque. Two are in converted single-family homes, where the residents have separate bedrooms but share living, kitchen, and dining areas. Another program is located in a set of three attached two-bedroom apartments, each of which can house two teenage parents and their children. One program operates out of a set of eight, clustered one- and two-bedroom apartment units in a large privately owned apartment complex in an urban area. Another is in a converted motel in a remote location off of old Route 66. The level of supervision and strictness of the rules imposed on residents concerning curfews, visitors, and other issues varies across the five homes.

Staffing Patterns. Each home uses a mix of full-time and part-time staff, although specific staffing patterns vary considerably across the homes. The number of full-time staff at each home ranges from two to five; however, those with fewer full-time staff typically employ more part-time staff. Full-time staff at each home include the home director and sometimes a residential coordinator, a case manager, or a counselor. Staff generally provide 24-hour supervision, including overnight and weekend shifts. Overnight staff are not required to remain awake. In addition to paid staff, most homes rely on volunteers from partner organizations to provide some services to home residents.

Core Program Services. All homes offer regular parenting and life-skills classes to residents. These classes typically meet once or twice a week and are led by home staff, although they sometimes rely on outside speakers. In addition, homes typically offer case management services to teens, regularly reviewing their progress toward meeting their program goals and offering them referrals if needed. Other services vary across the five homes. Some offer regular tutoring sessions for residents. Others provide respite child care on a limited basis and provide transportation to school, appointments, and shopping.

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