Implementing Welfare Reform Requirements for Teenage Parents: Lessons from Experience in Four States . Challenges Associated with the Requirements

10/31/1997

These requirements create new challenges for young mothers receiving cash assistance. Some states have implemented, along with the new eligibility requirements, services to help teenage parents respond to these challenges. These services may include special life skills training, instruction in parenting skills and pregnancy prevention, academic classes and tutoring, help in finding and paying for child care and transportation, and special attention to obtaining child support orders and support. A few states have funded group homes for teenage parents as an alternative adult-supervised living arrangement when the parental home is found to be unsafe for the young mother or her baby. In many programs, case managers work with teenage parents to identify their special needs and help arrange needed services, motivate them to comply with program requirements, and trigger changes in financial benefits (as sanctions or rewards) based on teenage parents' response.

The requirements also create challenges for the agencies administering the AFDC and TANF programs. They must establish clear definitions that distinguish compliance from noncompliance. They must develop workable procedures for obtaining timely information to determine whether teenage parents are meeting requirements. Staff members must be trained and supervised to ensure that teenage parents are identified, compliance is monitored, and action is taken consistently and promptly when noncompliance is detected. Adequate resources must be made available to ensure that support services intended to facilitate the desired behavior can be delivered.