Implementing Welfare Reform Requirements for Teenage Parents: Lessons from Experience in Four States . CONCLUSION

10/31/1997

Several broad conclusions emerge from our examination of four states' experiences implementing school attendance and living arrangement requirements for teenage parents receiving cash assistance.

First, identifying teenage parents, especially those who are part of someone else's case, is difficult. Several useful strategies are available to states to improve the identification process, including persistent staff training and reliance on referrals from outside agencies that work with teenage parents.

Second, great diversity exists in the way attendance policies are formulated and services delivered. States varied along such dimensions as: specific groups covered by the policies, types of education programs available and methods of funding those programs, definitions of the attendance standard, and methods of monitoring. Financial penalties for poor attendance range from small reductions in grants to eliminating them altogether. Approaches to providing services to support the efforts of teenage parents to persevere in school and raise healthy children are especially diverse. The ones we observed included intensive case management, enriched and targeted GED programs, and supportive, supervised living arrangements.

Finally, living arrangement requirements are broadly similar across states. States differed primarily in their emphasis on providing adult-supervised group living arrangements and the resources they devoted to these arrangements.

We conclude the report with a reminder to the reader. This study has focused on the operations of programs that impose school attendance and living arrangement requirements for teenage parents. It was not designed to examine the underlying question of what effects these requirements have on the outcomes of the teenage parents or their children. For example, our study was not designed to assess how many more teenage parents will acquire a high school credential because a school attendance requirement is in effect.

California's evaluation of its Cal Learn program is examining these questions as they pertain to Cal Learn. In fact, the evaluation has been designed in a way that will allow the researchers to estimate separately the effects of intensive case management and the effects of Cal Learn's financial incentives. Accordingly, that evaluation will make an important contribution to our knowledge of the effectiveness of these two key program elements. Evidence developed prior to TANF from demonstration programs such as LEAP, New Chance, and the Teenage Parent Demonstration shows that improving the outcomes of teenage parents is a challenge.