The structure and services maternity group homes provide can depend on the particular needs of the population being served. Individual homes serve different numbers and types of residents, who make their way to the maternity group homes through different avenues. The reasons a home serves the population it does may be due to program goals, or they simply may be the result of practical considerations or local context. This section discusses the capacity, target populations, and referral and screening processes of maternity group homes.
Capacity. The maximum number of residents that an individual maternity group home can house at one time may be decided by the managing organization based on program goals, or they may be dictated by limited funding and the housing facilities available in an area. The number of families living in a facility contributes to the home environment and thus potentially affects program outcomes. For example, there is some evidence from a study of Massachusetts' Teen Living Program network that home size may be negatively correlated with satisfaction (Collins, Lemon, and Street 2000). On the other hand, larger facilities may benefit from economies of scale.
There is considerable variation in the number of families that can be served by individual maternity group homes, but the majority of homes are quite small. Some homes serve as few as two teen families at a time, while others may serve as many as 47 (SPAN 2001). Just over half of the maternity group homes surveyed by SPAN in 2001 reported capacities below 10 families, and only 11 homes had room to serve more than 20 families. The mean capacity of the homes in the 2001 SPAN directory is about 11 families.(2)
Program capacity, of course, is only the upper limit on the number of families actually residing in a home. Actual program size also depends on the demand for maternity group home beds among eligible teens in the local area. Some homes may have open slots, while others may have waiting lists.
Target Population. Pregnant and parenting teens are not a homogeneous population. While the residents served by each maternity group home varies naturally depending on the types of teen parents in need in their service area, some maternity group homes deliberately target specific subgroups of teens. Teens in group homes can derive emotional support and learn from one another, as well as from program staff; housing similar types of teens together may encourage this peer support and allows staff to specialize. Many maternity group homes target a particular subset of teens defined by age, family composition, or eligibility for or participation in a specific social service:
- Age: Most homes serve a limited age range. Some focus on younger teens (for example, age 12 to 18), while others target older teens and even young mothers in their early 20s (up to 21, for example, or 17 to 25). A few have different age limits for pregnant teens than for parenting ones. Some homes have no age limits at all, and others are flexible about their official limits. For example, some will allow teens already in residence to remain for a specified amount of time after they reach the program's stated upper age limit.
- Family Composition: Homes often place limits on the family composition of enrollees. Many maternity group homes serve both pregnant and parenting teens, but some serve teen families only after a baby is born, and a few serve only pregnant teens, who must move out shortly after giving birth.(3) Some homes place limits on the number of children of teens entering the home or on the ages of children in residence. Most programs only serve single parents, primarily mothers, but some allow single fathers, and at least one was specifically designed to serve two-parent families (Reich and Kelly 2001).
- Eligibility for Other Services: Some maternity group homes have eligibility criteria tied to some other social service, such as TANF or foster care. For example, some maternity group homes are funded almost entirely by foster care reimbursements and serve mandatory placements, teens in state custody. Some other maternity group homes require that residents be eligible for or receiving TANF, Medicaid, or, in one home, Job Corps. Massachusetts created its Teen Living Program network to provide an alternative for teens unable to live with their parents or another adult relative, since, under welfare reform, all states require minor parents to live with a responsible adult as a condition of TANF receipt. Other states work with minors on TANF to find an appropriately supervised living situation, and several states' policies specifically mention maternity group homes as an option (State Policy Documentation Project 1999).
Some networks have different homes that serve different populations (see Section C for a discussion of maternity group home networks). For example, one home in Massachusetts' Teen Living Program network is specifically for victims of domestic violence. St. Ann's, a two-home network in Maryland, provides residential care for 21 pregnant adolescents and young mothers and their babies through its Teen Mother-Baby Program and operates a separate facility of transitional apartment housing for eight young mothers (18 to 25 years old) and their children. Another two-home network, St. Elizabeth's in Indiana, operates both a Maternity Home with the capacity to serve 17 pregnant teens and a Transitional Home with capacity to serve seven young families after the baby is born.
Referrals and Screening. The type of population served by a particular maternity group home can depend on the organizations that refer teens to the home and the process by which applicants are screened. A variety of organizations including welfare agencies, child protective service agencies, courts, homeless shelters, faith-based and other community-based organizations refer pregnant or parenting teens to maternity group homes. Some teens find maternity group homes on their own. Many maternity group homes accept referrals from several different places, but some homes (about one-fifth of respondents to the 2001 SPAN survey) accept only referrals from a single source. For example, homes that serve foster children exclusively may accept referrals only from child protective services agencies. Homes tied to welfare reform minor living arrangement rules may accept only referrals from welfare agencies.
Potential maternity group home residents must be screened, if only to ensure they meet the program's minimum eligibility requirements. However, information about screening criteria and methods is limited in the maternity group home literature, particularly in cases where programs themselves, rather than referring agencies, conduct the screening. Screening of potential residents is done by referring organizations for some maternity group homes. In Massachusetts, for example, state Department of Social Services staff consider the case of new teen applicants for TANF benefits who state that they are unable to live at home or with an adult guardian and make a determination of whether they should live with their parents or be referred to a maternity group home in the state's Teen Living Program network (Collins, Lane, and Stevens 2003). Other homes do their own screening. Even some homes where teens are placed by social service agencies, such as several in New York, New York, for which all admissions are approved by the Child Welfare Administration (CWA), have the right to accept or reject each placement (Reich 1996).