Implementing Welfare Reform Requirements for Teenage Parents: Lessons from Experience in Four States . Selection of the Four Study States


Four states participated in the study: Arizona, California, Massachusetts, and Virginia. In selecting states for the study, we considered, and balanced, several analytic and policy objectives.(4) First, within the past few years, each of the four study states has implemented a school attendance or living arrangement requirement covering teenage parents receiving cash assistance. Second, at the time we conducted site visits and data collection, all four states had been operating under the policies for at least a year, which allowed us to observe the experiences of states that had actually implemented the policies. Third, these states' experiences with their teenage parent programs and provisions had not been well documented in previous research.

Because the purpose of the study is to examine operational issues arising from the imposition of both school attendance and living arrangement requirements for teenage parents, a fourth objective was to choose states that had implemented both policies. Three of the four study states have imposed both requirements. The exception is California, which did not implement a minor parent living arrangement requirement until 1997. We considered California a good candidate for the study, however, because of a fifth study objective: to examine states that have implemented innovative approaches to serving teenage parents. The state's mandatory school attendance program, Cal Learn, offers an unusual approach to the school requirement. Unlike programs in the other study states, Cal Learn focuses on academic performance rather than attendance, offering bonuses to teenage parents who earn good grades and imposing sanctions on teenage parents with poor grades or those who do not attend school at all.

We were particularly interested in including Virginia in the study because of a sixth objective: to examine states that have chosen different approaches to serving teenage parents. Unlike the other study states, Virginia has a broad attendance requirement that covers all school-age minors, not just minor parents. Inclusion of Virginia in the study allows us to examine the implementation experience of a state that has chosen a common approach to mandatory school attendance. Of the 26 states that had waivers approved by July 1996 to impose a school attendance requirement, 16 had mandates covering all minors (or, in some cases, all teenagers), whereas just 10 required school attendance only of teenage parents. Because of the frequency with which states chose to require school attendance of all minors through waivers, we considered it important to examine a state that had used this approach.