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

Program (State) Either Pregnant or Parenting? Age of Mother Other Requirements
Table II.4. Selected Eligibility Criteria for Maternity Group Homes Programs in the Study
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” 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.

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