Maternity Group Homes Classification and Literature Review. Outcomes After Leaving Maternity Group Homes

03/08/2004

Due to the variety of supports and services they provide to teen families, maternity group homes could affect a wide range of outcomes. Studies of maternity group homes have reported findings on the outcomes of former residents in a number of areas, including education, employment, child support, housing, family planning, and use of health care.

Educational pursuits. Although many teens drop out of school before entering maternity group homes, most homes encourage drop-outs to return to school, and many former residents continue their education after leaving the homes. Studies that surveyed former maternity group home residents found that 45 percent to 65 percent had pursued educational activities after leaving the program (Fischer 2000; and Collins, Stevens, and Lane 2000). The variation in educational activities among former residents is probably due, in large part, to the different age groups served by different homes. A study of Massachusetts' Teen Living Program network found that about 38 percent of former residents had obtained their GED since leaving the maternity group home, and about 21 percent of these had attended some college (Collins, Stevens, and Lane 2000).

Employment and earnings. Along with education, the employment and earnings of former maternity group home residents are key outcomes particularly relevant for their future success. Different studies have reported mixed findings on these issues. Across studies that surveyed former maternity group home residents after they left the home, reports of employment after range from 25 percent to 65 percent of former residents (Economist 1995; and Collins, Stevens, and Lane 2000; G-CAPP 2004; Fischer 2000; Sylvester 1995). This variation likely reflects a number of factors, including the diverse populations served by different homes, the labor markets in different locations, and different study methods used. The highest percentage was reported in a home where program staff place program graduates in jobs (Sylvester 1995).

Reports of percentages that ever had a job after leaving the maternity group home do not necessarily indicate employment stability, however. Different studies found that the job tenures of employed former maternity group residents ranged from an average of just 76 days to an average of about nine months (Collins, Stevens, and Lane 2000; and Fischer 2000). A study of Massachusetts' Teen Living Program network found that, although 44 percent of former residents had been employed at some point since leaving the program, only a quarter of them were employed at the time of the follow-up interview (about one year after they left the maternity group home, on average) (Collins, Stevens, and Lane 2000). The study notes that this rate compares unfavorably with the general population, in which just over half of mothers with infants under a year old are employed. However, teen parents may be more likely to be in school than older parents, and former maternity group home residents are more disadvantaged than the general population (Collins, Stevens, and Lane 2000).

The few studies that reported on the characteristics of jobs held by former maternity group home residents found average earnings ranging from about $946 to $1,200 per month (Collins, Stevens, and Lane 2000; and Fischer 2000). A study of Massachusetts' Teen Living Program network found that although those employed since leaving the program worked a substantial number of hours per week, most of their jobs were in the retail sales and service sectors, paid low wages, and did not provide health benefits (Collins, Stevens, and Lane 2000). A study of the FDC home in Georgia found that, on average, employed former residents were working full-time and earning almost $1,200 a month (Fischer 2000). The study compared former residents' earnings favorably to the $1,076 monthly amount predicted by another study for young disadvantaged mothers in the same labor market area. This study also found that the percentages of employed former FDC residents meeting two of three Congressional Research Service (CRS) income benchmarks compares favorably to an external study's findings on a sample of former JTPA participants. CRS compared the income of former JTPA recipients to three benchmarks, based on family size: the maximum AFDC benefit, the gross income limit beyond which they would no longer be eligible for AFDC, and the federal poverty line. About 91 percent of former JTPA recipients in the CRS study exceeded the first benchmark, 39 percent exceeded the second, and 31 percent exceeded the third. In comparison, only 55 percent of former FDC maternity group home residents in the Fischer study exceeded the first benchmark ($235), but 53 percent exceeded the second ($659), and 45 percent exceeded the third ($836).

Child support. Many maternity group homes provide outreach or other services to the fathers of residents' babies. In addition to strengthening their attachment to their children (a difficult-to-measure outcome) and involvement in their lives, this outreach may encourage the fathers to contribute financially to their babies' mothers. Studies of different maternity group homes reported that between 7 and 50 percent of former residents received some economic support from their children's fathers (Sawyer 2000; Collins, Stevens, and Lane 2000; and Fischer 2000). The variation could be explained by differences in program emphasis and timing of data collection for different studies. The lowest proportion reported was at time of exit from the program, while higher rates were reported at followup. The highest proportion reported was among former residents of the FDC home in Georgia, which emphasizes the importance of securing financial support from the child's father. This study found a substantial increase in the proportion receiving regular financial assistance from the father of their child, from only 14 percent at the time they entered the maternity group home to 50 percent of former residents at followup (Fischer 2000). However, since this change was measured using program intake as the baseline, it is possible that some teens were not receiving economic support then because they had not yet delivered their baby.

Housing. Since housing instability is one factor in the decision of many teens to enter a maternity group home, one might expect former maternity group home residents to continue to have a difficult time finding stable housing after leaving the security of a maternity group home. Studies of maternity group homes have found that many former residents need some type of housing assistance. Many require the financial assistance available through subsidized or public housing programs (Fischer 2000; and Collins, Stevens, and Lane 2000). Others live with friends or relatives after leaving maternity group homes rather than immediately establishing their own independent household. For example, a study of Massachusetts' Teen Living Program network found that the majority (about 58 percent) of former Teen Living Program residents were living in a temporary, rather than permanent, housing situation, most often living with family, friends, or the father of their child. Some of these temporary housing situations were probably deliberate steps along a path to more independent living, but others may be more tenuous situations. About 16 percent of former Teen Living Program residents had been homeless at some point since leaving the program, a substantially larger percentage than was found in recent investigations of homelessness among teens, which reported rates of less than 10 percent (Collins, Stevens, and Lane 2000).

Subsequent pregnancies. Having additional children can impede the progress of teen parents toward self-sufficiency. For this reason, maternity group homes often educate residents about family planning in an effort to reduce repeat pregnancies even after teens leave the home. Most studies reporting on this issue found pregnancy rates among former maternity group home residents to be similar to rates reported in other studies of teen parents or lower than (sometimes considerably lower than) the national average. These studies found that between 10 and 28 percent of teens were pregnant again one year after leaving the maternity group home (Sylvester 1995; Fischer 2000; and Collins, Stevens, and Lane 2000). The variation between findings of different maternity group home studies may be due to differences in program focus, population served, or study methodologies. One study with a follow-up period as long as four years after exit for some respondents reported a repeat pregnancy rate of 36 percent (Fischer 2000). For comparison, a study of first-time welfare-dependent teen parents in three inner-city areas found that about two-thirds had a repeat pregnancy during followup, about 28 months after intake on average, and that about half had another child in that time (Maynard 1993). A study of the general population of teenage mothers found that about one-quarter had a second child within two years of their first (Kalmuss and Namerow 1994).

Health care. The previous section discussed the health of teen mothers and their children during their residence in the maternity group home, but homes often attempt to promote lasting healthy behaviors and encourage teen residents to utilize health services even after they leave. A study of Massachusetts' Teen Living Program network found that 96 percent of former residents had some type of health insurance, although the vast majority of them (for 91 percent of former residents) were Medicaid (Collins, Stevens, and Lane 2000). About 87 percent of former Teen Living Program residents had taken their child to a doctor since leaving the maternity group home, and 82 percent had themselves seen a doctor.

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