EllenВ EliasonВ Kisker, RebeccaВ A.В Maynard, AnuВ Rangarajan, and KimberlyВ Boller
Mothers who have their first child as a teenager are more likely than older mothers to go on welfare, and they spend more years on welfare over their lifetimes.В Thus, they are a special focus of the most recent welfare reform legislation, which imposes strict new requirements on teenage parents.В State and local agencies charged with implementing these requirements may find the lessons from three recent evaluations useful.
The three recent demonstration evaluations -- of the Teenage Parent Demonstration; Ohio's Learning, Earning, and Parenting Program (LEAP); and the New Chance demonstration -- offer important lessons for states and local agencies that are implementing the teenage parent provisions of the new law.В For example, the evaluations suggest the following:"
Highlights of the Research
- Mandatory participation requirements and needed support services can be implemented successfully for teenage parents on a large scale at a reasonable cost.
- Establishing clear expectations for participation in education or employment-related activities and financial consequences for not meeting them can promote teenage parents' participation when backed up by case management and support services.
- Offering expanded educational opportunities may be necessary, because the opportunities currently available to teenage parents often fail to address their educational needs.
- More clinical and sustained family planning services may be necessary to encourage and enable teenage mothers to delay having another child.
- Children of teenage mothers have not been harmed when their mothers have been required to participate in out-of-home activities (and provided needed child care assistance).
This summary presents the main findings from the three evaluations and discusses lessons that may be useful for the designers of future state and local programs.
Why Focus on Teenage Parents?
Despite recent declines in sexual activity, abortion, and birth rates for U.S. teenagers, the number of births remains high. Nearly one million teenagers become pregnant every year.(1) In 1996, more than half a million gave birth. Three-fourths of those who gave birth were not married, and nearly 200,000 were under age 18.(2) One-fifth had second or higher-order births.(3) Many of these young mothers face multiple challenges as they enter adulthood and strive for self-sufficiency, and their children grow up with significantly higher risks of poor health, education, and economic outcomes.
Teenage parents are at especially high risk of long-term welfare dependence. Nearly half of all teenage mothers go on welfare within five years after becoming a parent. Under the old welfare rules, the majority of those who went on welfare stayed on the rolls for at least two years; many remained on much longer.(4) Most went on and off welfare more than once, spending an average of 8 to 10 years on the rolls over their lifetimes.(5) Even though teenage parents made up only a small proportion of welfare recipients at any given time, nearly half of all welfare recipients were single women who had given birth as teenagers.(6)
Teenage childbearing is an important policy concern because it affects not only a mother's life but also her child's. Research shows that the children of teenage parents are more likely to be in poor health, experience less stimulating and supportive home environments, be abused or neglected, have difficulty in school, become teenage parents themselves, and be incarcerated during young adulthood, when compared with children of older parents.(7)
PRWORA: The Catalyst
The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) gave states more autonomy and responsibility for creating and administering welfare policy. The new law sets forth clear expectations for families on welfare--a maximum of 60 months of cash assistance over their lifetime (states may set stricter time limits), and after a much shorter time, a requirement for most families receiving cash assistance to work.(8) The law includes a requirement for minor, unmarried, custodial parents to participate in education (if their child is at least 12 weeks old). They also must live with a parent or guardian or in an adult-supervised setting, unless the state determines that an exception is appropriate.(9) Under the new law, up to five states will receive a performance bonus for reducing the number of out-of-wedlock births (including those to teenagers) and the abortion rate.
PRWORA provides incentives for states to lower their teenage birth rates and encourages them to help teenage parents on welfare participate in education and move toward economic self-sufficiency. Thus, it is valuable for states to be aware of recent research on programs aimed at promoting improved outcomes for teenage parents relying on public assistance.(10)
The Evaluations and Their Findings
The findings from evaluations of three, quite different programs (see table) serving teenage parents suggest some cross-cutting lessons for state and local staff who will be designing new policies and programs for teenage parents. Next, we present findings in specific program-related areas followed by specific examples. (All findings cited here are from the reports described in the table of Three Large Programs for Teenage Parents, unless otherwise noted.)
Teenage Parent Demonstration (TPD)
|Camden, NJ; Newark, NJ; south side of Chicago, IL
|All teenagers who were first-time parents and receiving welfare. In Illinois, teenagers who had no children, but were in the third trimester of pregnancy and receiving welfare were also targeted.
|Generally $160 sanction per month, the amount normally allocated to cover the needs of the mother, for failure to participate in activities (education, training, or employment-related activities)
|Case management; initial workshops on topics such as employment preparation, family planning, life skills, parenting, child support, and nutrition; child care assistance; transportation assistance. Average caseloads ranged from about 40 in the New Jersey sites to about 80 in Chicago.
|Ellen Eliason Kisker, Anu Rangarajan, and Kimberly Boller. Moving Into Adulthood: Were the Impacts of Mandatory Programs for Welfare-Dependent Teenage Parents Sustained After the Programs Ended? Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., 1998.
Learning, Earning, and Parenting Program (LEAP)
|Ohio (all counties). The evaluation focused on 12 counties.
|All pregnant women and custodial parents under 20 years old who are receiving welfare and do not have a high school diploma or GED
|$62 bonus for enrolling in school; $62 bonus for each month teen meets attendance requirements; $62 sanction for not attending initial assessment or failing to verify school enrollment; $62 sanction for each month teen exceeds allowable absences
|Child care assistance; transportation assistance; at least minimal case management. Average caseloads ranged from under 20 for part-time case managers to 200.
|Johannes M. Bos and Veronica Fellerath. LEAP: Final Report on Ohio's Welfare Initiative to Improve School Attendance Among Teenage Parents. New York: Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation, August 1997. (Executive Summary)
New Chance Demonstration
|16 sites: California (3), Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, New York (2), Oregon (2), Pennsylvania (3)
|Mothers 16 to 22 years old who were age 19 or younger when they first gave birth, were receiving welfare, did not have a high school diploma or GED, and were not pregnant when they entered the program
|None; programs were voluntary
|Case management; on-site ABE and GED preparation; other employment-related services; good-quality child care on site or nearby; family planning classes, counseling, and referrals; parenting classes. Caseloads, planned to be 25, often rose to 40 or higher.
|Janet C. Quint, Johannes M. Bos, and Denise F. Polit. New Chance: Final Report on a Comprehensive Program for Young Mothers in Poverty and Their Children. New York: Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation, September 1997. (Executive Summary)
Linking cash assistance to program participation increases the level of self-sufficiency-oriented activities when the participation mandates are combined with support services.
- The Teenage Parent Demonstration (TPD) reached 89 percent of all teenage parents on welfare in the demonstration sites through case management, the provision of support services, and the heavy use of sanctions. It increased rates of school attendance, job training, and employment while the programs were operating. The increases in activity levels faded after the programs ended, however.
- Ohio's Learning, Earning, and Parenting Program (LEAP) increased teenage parents' school and GED program attendance significantly during the first year after they entered the program. It also increased the rates at which they completed 9th, 10th, and 11th grade during the first three years after program entry.
Voluntary programs can increase participation in education and training among those they serve; however, relatively few teenage parents are attracted to them. Moreover, the increases in activity levels tend to fade quickly as participants drop out.
- The voluntary New Chance programs found client recruitment challenging, despite their extensive service offerings.
- The New Chance programs increased young parents' participation in education and skills training substantially during the first six months after they entered the program. The increases became much smaller and eventually disappeared as participants dropped out, however.
Child care needs increase and preferences for types of care arrangements change as participation rates in education and employment-related activities rise. The mix of child care services used tends to vary based on the availability of different types of care.
- TPD increased both the percentage of mothers who used child care and the amount of care they used. Although the use of all types of care increased, the use of child care centers increased proportionately more. Still, many of the teenage parents who engaged in out-of-home activities chose to rely on free relative care. TPD also increased the average number of months and hours per week that mothers used child care.(11)
- New Chance lowered the age of entry into child care and increased the use of child care centers (9 of the 16 programs offered regular, on-site center-based care). It also increased the number of different child care arrangements children experienced.
It is easier for programs to increase enrollment in GED programs than to increase high school retention or re-enrollment in high school. Higher rates of GED program attendance and school enrollment may not lead to improvements in basic skills or higher graduation rates.
- TPD increased school and GED program enrollment, but it did not improve average reading or math skills. Only one of the three TPD programs increased the high school graduation rate.
- LEAP increased attendance and grade attainment but did not increase high school graduation rates. It increased GED attainment only among those who were initially enrolled in school or a GED program.
- New Chance increased GED attainment, but it reduced high school graduation rates. It did not increase average reading skills.
Modest increases in participation in education and training in the short term are not likely to translate into greater employment and earnings later on, at least when they are not accompanied by increases in basic skills.
- After four years of operation, the TPD programs ended and their impacts faded. The TPD programs increased employment and earnings while the teenage mothers were subject to the participation requirements and received support services (for an average of two and a half years). These impacts faded, however, once the teenagers were transitioned back to the regular welfare policies, which did not link cash assistance to activity levels and did not offer the same level of support services.
- LEAP increased short-term employment levels and earnings for teenagers who were in school when they entered LEAP, but these impacts faded once the teenage parents aged out of LEAP and were no longer affected by its financial incentives.
- New Chance had no long-term impacts on employment, earnings, income, or welfare receipt.
Helping young mothers delay second pregnancies and births is very difficult. None of the demonstration programs had consistent or meaningful impacts on repeat pregnancies or births.
- TPD had no consistent significant impacts on pregnancies and births during the evaluation. Only the site with the most intensive family planning workshops and the smallest average caseloads succeeded in reducing the average number of pregnancies and births in the long term, and, then, by quite small amounts.
- By three years after program entry, LEAP had no significant impact on subsequent births.
- Overall, New Chance had no significant impacts on subsequent pregnancies or births. Two sites with relatively more intensive family planning components delayed subsequent pregnancies significantly, but longer-term birth rates were not affected.
Neither TPD nor New Chance had consistent, meaningful impacts, either positive or negative, on children's well-being. (Child outcomes were not assessed for LEAP.)
- TPD focused primarily on improving teenage parents' economic self-sufficiency. TPD was adult-focused, and improving child well-being was not a major goal of the demonstration. Although TPD did not provide intensive services directly to children, it did provide parenting workshops of varying durations and intensities and helped participants who needed child care select an arrangement. Mothers' participation in program activities and the resulting increase in their use of child care neither harmed the children nor enhanced their development and well-being. In one site, a few statistically significant negative impacts on children were observed, but they were very small and not developmentally meaningful.
- New Chance attempted to improve children's well-being by helping participants arrange appropriate child care, making referrals for health care, and offering parenting education classes. All sites were expected to ensure that participants had child care compatible with program participation, and nine sites offered regular, on-site child care.(12) But these services did not improve the home environment parents provided for their children, nor did the services influence the children's cognitive development. The evaluation found small negative impacts on children's social-emotional development, based on mothers' reports of their children's behavior, but no significant impacts on teachers' assessments of children's academic performance and school adjustment.
1. Stanley K Henshaw. "Teenage Abortion and Pregnancy Statistics by State, 1992." Family Planning Perspectives, vol. 29, no. 3, May/June 1997, pp. 115-122.
2. Child Trends. Facts at a Glance. Washington, DC: Child Trends, Inc., October 1997.
3. S. J. Ventura, K. D. Peters, J. A. Martin, and J. D. Maurer. Births and Deaths in the United States, 1996 Monthly Vital Statistics Report, vol. 46, no. 1, supp. 2. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics, 1996.
4. Philip Gleason, Anu Rangarajan, and Peter Schochet. "The Dynamics of AFDC Receipt Among Teenage Parents in Inner Cities." Journal of Human Resources, vol. 33, no. 4, summer 1998.
5. Myles Maxfield, and Mark Rucci. A Simulation Model of Employment and Training Programs for Long-Term Welfare Recipients: Technical Documentation, Washington, DC: Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., 1986; David Ellwood, Poor Support. New York: Basic Books, 1988; U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, The Green Book, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1993.
6. U.S. Government Accounting Office. AFDC Women Who Gave Birth as Teenagers. GAO/HHS 94-115. Washington, DC: Government Accounting Office, May 31, 1994.
7. Rebecca M. Maynard. Kids Having Kids. New York: The Robin Hood Foundation, 1996.
8. Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-193).
9. Jodie Levin-Epstein. Teen Parent Provisions in the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996. Washington, DC: Center for Law and Social Policy, November 1996.
10. See, for example, Stebbins (1997), who presents a comprehensive policy for teenage parents on welfare, drawing in part on previous research (Helene Stebbins. Serving Teen Parents in a Welfare Reform Environment. Washington, DC: National Governor's Association, 1997).
11. The programs increased the use of child care during the first two years after intake by 7 to 14 percentage points across the three sites (Rebecca Maynard, Walter Nicholson, and Anu Rangarajan, Breaking the Cycle of Poverty: The Effectiveness of Mandatory Services for Welfare-Dependent Teenage Parents, Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research, 1993). On average, mothers in the enhanced-services group used child care for two more months during the follow-up period and used care for an average of three more hours per week than mothers in the regular-services group (Peter Z. Schochet and Ellen Eliason Kisker, Meeting the Child Care Needs of Disadvantaged Teenage Mothers: Lessons from the Teenage Parent Demonstration, Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research, 1992).
12. Janet C. Quint, Barbara L. Fink, and Sharon L. Rowser. New Chance: Implementing a Comprehensive Program for Disadvantaged Young Mothers and Their Children. New York: Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation, December 1991.
Nine Lessons for Future Programs
The findings from these evaluations, along with the programs' implementation experiences and other research, suggest nine lessons for states implementing the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), as well as for programs serving teenage parents on welfare.
The first three lessons pertain to reaching teenage parents on welfare and engaging them in ongoing activities. The last six lessons address program operation issues, including the specific services that programs may want to consider providing.
- Identify Minor Parents. States may find it challenging to identify all minor custodial parents receiving TANF cash assistance. Universal identification of teenage parents may require changes in the information that welfare data systems collect and record.
- Clear Expectations. Clear expectations for participation in education or employment-related activities combined with financial consequences for not meeting them can increase rates of participation.
- Case Management and Support Services. Participation mandates should be accompanied by case management and support services, such as child care assistance.
- Hire Good Case Managers. Effective case management hinges on hiring case managers interested in and capable of working with teenage parents and on providing in-service training, skilled supervision, and support for case managers.
- MIS. Up-to-date management information systems can improve staff efficiency.
- Appropriate Educational Opportunities. The educational opportunities currently available to teenage parents are often inadequate for addressing their educational needs.
- Intensive Family Planning Services. Intensive, ongoing family planning services are needed to delay additional births.
- Out-of-Home Activities Not Harmful. Requiring teenage mothers of young children to participate in out-of-home activities such as school, job training, or employment for up to 30 hours a week is not likely to harm children.
- Add Child-Focused Services. By adding intensive, child-focused services, programs can significantly improve the well-being of children at the same time they are helping teenage mothers.
States may find it challenging to identify all minor custodial parents receiving TANF cash assistance. Universal identification of teenage parents may require changes in the information welfare data systems collect and record.
The TPD and LEAP programs, as well as other states such as Arizona, California, Massachusetts, and Virginia that have implemented teenage parent provisions under federal welfare waivers, encountered major challenges to identifying all teenage parents on welfare who met eligibility criteria. The greatest challenge was identifying teenage parents who were receiving welfare as a minor parent on another person's grant. Existing data systems tended not to include codes to identify minor parents or link them to their children, or, if they had such codes, data generally were incomplete.(13)
Identifying all teenage parents who are subject to the new teenage parent provisions of PRWORA, particularly those receiving cash assistance under someone else's grant, will require explicit procedures for identifying the parents of each dependent child in a case. When taking applications or conducting eligibility redeterminations, caseworkers may need to ask for and record more-detailed information about relationships between case members than has been required previously. Some agencies will need to add special fields to existing data systems. Others may simply need to use their existing fields more consistently or differently.
If new information on case member relationships is collected, adding data fields that identify the parents of each dependent child may be preferable to adding codes that flag teenage parents. Codes for minors' parental status will need to be updated continuously as individuals move in and out of cases. Codes identifying children's parents are permanent and can be used to identify cases that include minor parents and their children. Codes that identify parents of dependent children may also be used to help establish paternity and child support orders.
Clear expectations for participation in education or employment-related activities combined with financial consequences for not meeting them can increase rates of participation.
The New Chance experience suggests that clear expectations, backed up by support services, can increase teenage parents' attendance in activities geared toward developing their self-sufficiency. Among the voluntary New Chance programs, the ones with the clearest attendance rules and expectations that participants would follow them achieved the highest participation rates. The New Chance experience in client recruitment, however, underscores the limited reach of voluntary programs. In one site, for example, the program reached approximately five percent of eligible teenage parents.(14)
TPD and LEAP show that clear expectations for participation can be more effective when they are backed up by financial sanctions for nonparticipation. TPD, for example, reached nearly 90 percent of all eligible teenage parents and enrolled them in the demonstration. Once enrolled, 92 percent engaged in program activities (Figure 1).
In both TPD and LEAP, financial sanctions were used heavily to promote participation. For example, about 8 percent of the TPD parents were sanctioned for failing to complete intake. About 62 percent of those who completed intake were warned at some time of a possible sanction. Case managers worked hard to encourage those who received warnings to get back into activities and to address obstacles to participation. Nevertheless, more than one-third of participants had their grant reduced at least once for failing to comply with ongoing participation requirements.(15)
|"The first time they sent me a letter, I looked at it and threw it away. The second time, I looked at it and threw it away again. And then they cut my check, and I said 'Uh, oh, I'd better go.' I was like, 'Oh my goodness, these people really mean business, and I'd better go down there and see what this is all about.'"
In LEAP, case managers requested sanctions for 56 percent of the teenage parents at least once during their first 18 months in the program for failing to meet school attendance requirements. The mandatory LEAP and TPD programs also achieved high rates of ongoing participation relative to the voluntary New Chance programs. In LEAP, 58 to 78 percent of eligible teenage parents met the school attendance requirements in any given month during the period for which data were available. In TPD, 82 percent of mothers developed a self-sufficiency plan, and 70 percent engaged in some school, job training, or employment (Figure 1). Between 30 and 50 percent were participating in these activities in any given month while the programs were operating.(16) Participation in the voluntary New Chance programs was measured differently, but it appears to have been considerably lower. New Chance mothers participated for an average of 6 months (one-third of the planned 18 months of services); half participated for less than 5 months. Absences were frequent.
Even higher rates of participation might have been achieved in TPD and LEAP if sanctions had been applied more regularly and more quickly when clients were not meeting the participation requirements. In TPD, case managers issued one or two warning notices and worked hard to get teenage parents to meet participation requirements before requesting sanctions. After a sanction was requested, it took as long as two months for the grant to be reduced.(17) In LEAP, sanctions were supposed to take effect three months after the attendance requirements were not met, so participants had several opportunities to respond to sanction notices. Many sanctions that were requested were not implemented within this three-month period.(18)
Participation mandates should be accompanied by case management and support services, such as child care assistance.
Teenage parents view participation mandates that are backed by case management positively. Case managers monitor teenager's participation in required activities, implement sanctions when required, and authorize support services. Support services are especially important for enabling case managers to enforce the participation requirements.
Programs may want to consider more-intensive case management that goes beyond enforcing participation and paying for child care and provides enhanced, individualized services to address the varying needs of teenage parents on welfare. When they enrolled in TPD, many teenage parents were highly motivated to give their children a better childhood than they had experienced.(19) Beyond this motivation, however, the group was diverse. One-third of the teenage parents were in school, one-third had graduated, and one-third had dropped out. Half had weak basic skills. When they enrolled, about half lived in households with other adults who might be able to provide economic and/or social support. The majority had one or more barriers to employment, including health problems, limited English proficiency, child care problems, and transportation needs.(20)
|"When I go to Project Advance, they know me, they speak to me. Some of the people there were on a first-name basis. It's another part of home. If I do something stupid, they know it, they tell me. When I do something good, they all praise [me] for it."
Programs may also consider using more-intensive case management to build and maintain participants' motivation. More-intensive case management allows case managers to develop relationships with their clients, push them to identify and clarify the barriers they face, and demonstrate a commitment to helping overcome these barriers that may be as important as the support services themselves. TPD case managers assessed clients' need for education, training, employment, and support services; developed individualized self-sufficiency plans; provided encouragement and support; coordinated services and interceded with other agencies and employers on behalf of clients; and ensured access to child care and transportation. Many TPD participants reported that the personal and caring attention they received from their case managers was an important motivation to participate in school or work-related activities.(21) In LEAP, adding enhanced school-based case management to regular LEAP services increased the school completion rate for initially enrolled teens.(22)
|"Before I went there, I was like, 'Gee, I don't know if I want to go to school,' but now I have decided to go to school with their help. Because I was thinking, if I was to go to school, how in the world was I gonna be able to pay the babysitter. And now that I'm coming here, they're paying the babysitter and transportation."
Teenagers, who often lack experience and confidence in dealing with life's problems, need more help than adults in addressing barriers to self-sufficiency. Adequate child care assistance -- not only financial aid, but also help arranging child care and dealing with problems when they arise -- is essential to teenage parents' continued participation in activities. Public transportation subsidies and help arranging other transportation when public transportation is not available may be critical for allowing many teenage parents to get their children to child care and themselves to school, training, or work. Some teenagers also need housing, emergency assistance services, health care, and mental health care (including treatment for substance abuse problems, counseling for family problems, and help with conflict resolution). Too many teenage mothers, especially younger ones, have been sexually or physically abused and will need help addressing the resulting problems.(23)
Although support services are costly, they may not be as costly as generally assumed if teenage parents' access to informal child care by relatives does not change significantly in the new welfare environment. In TPD and LEAP, for example, the total costs of child care subsidies were not as high as expected. In TPD, about one-third of active participants obtained free child care, mostly from relatives. Only one-third of those in school, training, or work needed help from the program to pay for child care.(24) In LEAP, few teenagers used program-funded child care, primarily because they relied on informal care from relatives, which could not be paid for with public funds.(25) More teenage parents may need child care subsidies under the new welfare policies, if the type or amount of child care assistance offered is different from that offered by TPD and LEAP or if relatives who would otherwise provide child care must seek jobs themselves.
In the case of some support services, other systems are in place to cover the costs. For example, school-related transportation and medical care costs generally are covered by local educational agencies and Medicaid, respectively. Funding from other sources for behavioral health services, however, appears to be much more limited.
Effective case management hinges on hiring case managers interested in and capable of working with teenage parents and on providing in-service training, skilled supervision, and support for case managers.
TPD and New Chance underscore the importance to effective case management of strong personal skills and an interest in working with teenage parents.(26) Effective case managers are both tough and supportive; they set consistent expectations for their clients but also encourage and support them in their efforts to overcome obstacles to self-sufficiency. Effective case managers actively seek client contact, are open-minded, and are comfortable dealing with teenagers and their sexuality. They often benefit from having something in common with the clients they are helping (such as having a young child). It is vital, however, that they not have personal "baggage" that leads them to foster dependency rather than promote self-sufficiency. They need to be creative in helping clients develop goals and individual self-sufficiency plans. They need to work well in a team and be well-organized and goal-focused, so they can deal with large caseloads and unpredictable demands on their time.
Programs can help case managers do their job well by providing the following types of support:(27)
- Clerical support for scheduling group sessions, monitoring attendance, following up on sanction actions, processing child care vouchers, and entering data into the management information system
- Clear and accurate information on available services, which can be provided through briefings by community service providers, on-line resource listings, and in-house specialists
- Good program visibility in the community, which may require marketing the program to other agencies and encouraging other service providers to tailor their services to teenage parents
- Ongoing training to enhance knowledge and skills, provide opportunities for reflection, and demonstrate management recognition of the complex problems case managers encounter
- Strong supervision to develop and apply strong casework methods, including case conferences and troubleshooting as appropriate, and to promote consistent and adequate recordkeeping
- Ongoing communication with case managers to identify program needs and persistent efforts to improve program operations and services to meet the needs
- Recognition of effort and accomplishments, for example, by telling staff directly when a particular effort or accomplishment is appreciated, or planning formal occasions to recognize case managers' efforts and accomplishments, such as staff awards and visits by top agency officials
Up-to-date management information systems can improve staff efficiency.
A good management information system can facilitate the work of case managers, especially when caseloads are high. An effective management information system must contain accurate and up-to-date information on clients' needs, planned activities and services, ongoing participation and service receipt, and cash assistance status (including information on sanctions). It is especially helpful if the system generates "ticklers" and management reports that staff can use to track clients' participation and progress, identify those who are not meeting participation requirements, and implement timely sanction procedures.
The effectiveness of any system depends on staff members having a thorough understanding of it and how it can support their work. Making the system user-friendly is essential and quite easy with today's technology. Still, training and technical assistance are important for achieving maximum benefit from the system.
Developing and maintaining such an information system is no longer difficult or costly. Some states already have systems that could be used or adapted to track client activities and produce useful reports. At modest cost, new management information systems can also be developed using off-the-shelf software and hardware. (Developing proprietary or special purpose software and/or customized hardware is not likely to be cost-effective.)
The educational opportunities currently available to teenage parents are often inadequate for addressing their educational needs.
Simply requiring teenage parents to attend existing education programs is not likely to improve their employment prospects. All three programs increased school or GED attendance, but none succeeded in either increasing measured basic skills or improving later employment outcomes dramatically.
|"My baby's sick a lot and I'm out of school, and they don't give you make-up work or anything. So it's like a lot of my classes, I am failing, but I can't help it because I can't come to school on those days. They don't understand it."
Imaginative programs that combine academics, work experience, and intensive personal attention and can spark teenage parents' interest and commitment are needed. Regular schools and community Adult Basic Education (ABE) and GED programs often offer poor learning environments for young mothers. Many schools make no effort to accommodate teenage parents' needs for flexibility when their children are sick, their child care arrangements break down, or they face other crises. Others tend to accommodate teenage parents by lowering their academic expectations for the young mothers while offering child care and other support services.
Many young mothers feel uncomfortable in ABE and GED classes with older adults, and teachers accustomed to serving a broader adult population may be insensitive to teenage parents' problems. Many TPD mothers lacked interest in returning to a regular school program and had trouble fitting into available ABE and GED programs. For some, it was important that the educational curriculum be connected to real-life or job experiences.(28)
Developing special on-site classes to respond to perceived limitations in existing education and training programs is not necessarily easy. TPD developed in-house GED and ABE classes for participants, but program staff had difficulty getting participants to attend regularly.(29) New Chance also provided on-site GED classes tailored to teenage parents and experienced attendance problems.
A shift in focus, toward integrating education with job training and employment, may be helpful, especially under welfare reform. Immediate job-specific training to get trainees into jobs and improve the basic skills needed for employment may be more effective than strategies that seek to improve basic skills and garner receipt of a GED or diploma before job training is offered. This approach was successful for young minority single mothers in a demonstration program that served many individuals who had not graduated from high school.(30)
Many teenage parents have already failed in school and have large educational deficits (for example, very limited reading and math skills) when they enter programs like TPD and LEAP. Reengaging them in education and overcoming their deficits are difficult and highlight the importance of preventing school failure in the first place.
Intensive, ongoing family planning services are needed to delay additional births
Continued childbearing outside of marriage or a stable relationship intensifies barriers to economic self-sufficiency. It also strains limited economic resources further and makes child care needs more complex. Most teenage parents in the TPD programs wanted to delay having another child until they reached their goals or until their relationships, careers, living arrangements, or finances were more stable.(31) Few did so, however.
More intensive or different services are needed to help teenage parents delay subsequent births. The LEAP evaluation shows that simply keeping teenage parents in school is not enough to delay subsequent births. TPD and New Chance augmented their education and training services with family planning services to help teenage parents delay subsequent births. Although the services varied in intensity, they generally were inadequate. TPD provided initial workshops on contraception and sources of birth control, as well as counseling by case managers. New Chance planned more intensive family planning services, including two orientation workshops, group sessions at least monthly, routine individual counseling, and referrals to family planning providers, but the short duration of many teenagers' participation and difficulties implementing the planned services reduced the intensity of these services.
Only one of the three TPD programs and one of the New Chance programs led to delays in repeat pregnancies. The common features of these programs were:
- They conveyed clearer messages about the undesirability of having more children;
- Staff built on the teenagers' goals to delay childbearing and tended to be more aggressive in referring clients to family planning services;
- Tthey offered more extensive family planning services than the average site; and
- Staff had modest caseloads and were better able to provide individualized attention.
|"I might have [another] child years from now... I want to get my life together. I want to be married, have a good husband, a good home, and know I could afford another one."
To delay subsequent childbearing, programs may need to take a more active, ongoing role in helping teenage mothers define their family planning goals, understand their options for achieving their goals, gain access to family planning services, and follow through to achieve their goals. Programs can help teenage parents who want to delay having another child achieve this goal by convincing them that it is attainable (through abstinence or effective contraception), providing access to effective contraceptive methods, and following up to support their commitment to abstinence or effective contraception.
Research on two other programs suggests that it is possible to delay subsequent pregnancies when health care workers who are comfortable discussing sexuality, contraception, and related topics with teenagers build relationships with them and discuss these topics with them during regular home visits or health care visits. For example, programs that provided frequent home visits by nurses or trained paraprofessionals to improve mothers' health habits, infant caregiving, and personal accomplishments in the areas of work, education, and family planning reduced subsequent pregnancies and births. The home visitors in these programs showed women and their partners birth control devices, discussed the advantages of different methods of family planning in the context of the women's goals, and made referrals as needed.(32) In connection with visits for well-baby care, a program that provided family planning counseling, referrals to family planning clinics when appropriate, and follow-up discussions about using birth control was also effective.(33)
Several new highly effective contraceptive methods requiring less vigilance by the user are now available. Teenagers wanting to postpone another birth should be informed about them and encouraged to consider them. Information about these methods, which include hormone implants, hormone injections, and pills prescribed as emergency contraception, is not always readily accessible. Programs can play a vital role in informing clients about the full range of birth control options and helping them gain access to their selected methods.
|"I didn't plan it, and then again I kind of knew that it was going to happen because I wasn't really taking the pills like I was supposed to. I couldn't remember every day to take a pill. And I still don't."
Strategies for preventing teenage pregnancy also need to build on clear values about teenage childbearing. Programs that have been most successful in preventing teenage pregnancy have been the most directive or authoritarian and sent the clearest messages about expected behavior.(34) It may be important to communicate clearly to teenage parents that having another child soon after the first one, before reaching economic self-sufficiency, can have a negative effect on their children. Programs should not send mixed messages about future childbearing. Participants in New Chance may have received mixed signals, because the program celebrated their roles as mothers at the same time it hoped to encourage them to delay having a second child. The evaluators concluded that an emphasis on postponing additional births so parents can create a better future for existing children would have conveyed a clearer message.
Requiring teenage mothers of young children to participate in out-of-home activities such as school, job training, or employment for up to 30 hours a week is not likely to harm children.
The TPD evaluation showed that requiring teenage mothers to participate in education or employment-related activities when their children were very young, and providing child care assistance when necessary, did not adversely affect children's well-being in early elementary school. Increases in mothers' participation in school, training, and employment and accompanying increases in their use of child care did not lead to poorer developmental outcomes for their children. Neither did the increases help the children. For children whose mothers were subject to the participation requirement, scores on cognitive development, social-emotional development, and health assessments were similar to those of children whose mothers were in the control group.
Simply adding developmentally appropriate child care to program service offerings is not likely to improve child outcomes measurably. The New Chance programs offered free, developmentally appropriate child care at the program site or helped participants arrange it, but they did not enhance children's development. Poor attendance and high program dropout rates limited use of the child care and may account for the lack of positive impacts.
By adding intensive, child-focused services, programs can significantly improve the well-being of children at the same time they are helping teenage mothers.
Programs may want to expand their goals to promote healthy development in the children of teenage parents. Research shows that these children are at higher risk of poor health and development than children of older parents.(35) Consistent with this research, the children of the young parents in TPD and New Chance (both those who participated in the programs and those in the control group) performed poorly on assessments of their cognitive and social-emotional well-being compared with children from the same racial and ethnic backgrounds nationally. Designing programs to promote more positive health and development of children (in addition to promoting self-sufficiency among young parents) could improve school readiness and help prevent teenage childbearing in the next generation.
Recent research on early intervention programs shows that programs with intensive, child-focused services are more likely than those with primarily parent-focused services to enhance children's development. The Abecedarian Project, which provided full-time high-quality child care together with pediatric care and family support services until children were five years old, significantly improved children's cognitive development.(36) The Infant Health and Development Program, which provided child development services to low birthweight infants during home visits and in high-quality child care centers until the children were three years old, improved the cognitive development of the heavier low-birthweight children.(37) In contrast, the Comprehensive Child Development Program, which provided services to enhance parenting skills and ensured that low-income families received comprehensive social services to help them achieve economic self-sufficiency and to address their children's health and development needs, did not significantly improve children's well-being. The evaluators concluded that intensive, focused services provided directly to children and linked to well-defined outcomes are critical to success in improving children's well-being.(38)
Programs that lack the resources to provide intensive child-focused services may be able to collaborate with existing programs, such as Early Head Start, Head Start, or other high-quality child care programs, to arrange priority enrollment for welfare-dependent teenage parents and their children. Depending on the availability of existing programs, state and local agencies may want to encourage and support the development of programs for young children in communities where the need for them exceeds the supply.
|"Right now, I can't trust nobody with my baby because she can't tell me if somebody doing this or that to her because she's only 10 months. And I hear about this and that happening to little kids. I cannot trust them. Until I get somebody I trust to watch my baby, I will not be working or going to school."
Educating teenage parents about the features of high-quality child care and their options for arranging it may help promote its use. Education can also help them become comfortable with using nonrelative child care. Many teenage parents do not trust people they don't know to care for their children, especially when a child is very young.(39) Teenage mothers also need adequate subsidies to purchase high-quality developmental child care.
The new welfare law sets forth clear expectations for teenage parents receiving cash assistance and creates financial incentives for meeting those expectations. TPD and LEAP showed that it is feasible to implement participation mandates and provide needed support services on a large scale at a reasonable cost. The TPD and LEAP experiences suggest that teenage parents' participation in education programs will increase, but unless better education options become available, their basic skills and employment prospects may not improve. The TPD, LEAP, and New Chance experiences also suggest that tailored support services and ongoing, intensive family planning services may be necessary to help teenage parents overcome obstacles and move into self-sufficiency.
Requiring teenage mothers on welfare to participate in education activities is not likely to harm their children, but it is not likely to help them, either. Intensive, child-focused services are needed to promote the good health and positive development of children of teenage parents.
13. For example, in a case study of Massachusetts, Wood and Burghardt (1997) learned that the Department of Transitional Assistance had modified its computer system to include a field for identifying teenage parents, so that case workers could flag these cases in the review process. Despite this, they found that case workers were not always using the teenage parent flag (Robert G. Wood and John Burghardt, Implementing Welfare Reform Requirements for Teenage Parents: Lessons from Experience in Four States, Volume I: Summary Report, Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., October 1997). See also Alan M. Hershey, Enrolling Teenage AFDC Parents in Mandatory Education and Training Programs: Lessons from the Teenage Parent Demonstration, Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research, December 1991, and Dan Bloom, Hilary Kopp, David Long, and Denise Polit, LEAP: Implementing a Welfare Initiative to Improve School Attendance Among Teenage Parents, New York: Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation, July 1991. [Back to text]
14. Rebecca A. Maynard. "Paternalism, Teenage Pregnancy Prevention, and Teenage Parent Services." In Larry Mead, ed. The New Paternalism. Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution, 1997. [Back to text]
15. Philip Gleason, Rebecca Maynard, Walter Nicholson, Denise Polit, and Anu Rangarajan. Service Needs and Use by Welfare-Dependent Teenage Parents. Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research, 1993. [Back to text]
17. Alan M. Hershey and Charles Nagatoshi. Implementing Services for Welfare-Dependent Teenage Parents: Experiences in the DHHS/OFA Teenage Parent Demonstration. Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research, June 1989. [Back to text]
22. Like the basic LEAP program, the enhanced school-based services in Cleveland were moderately successful among teenagers who were enrolled in school when they entered LEAP. In Cleveland, among initially enrolled teenagers, the enhanced services increased high school completion rates from 21.3 to 25.5 percent, an increase over regular LEAP services that is significant at the 15 percent level (David Long, Robert G. Wood, and Hilary Kopp. LEAP: The Educational Effects of LEAP and Enhanced Services in Cleveland. New York: Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation, October 1994). [Back to text]
23. For example, estimates of the prevalence of child sexual abuse among females range from under 5 percent to more than 30 percent, and the accumulated evidence suggests that at least 20 percent of American women have experienced some sexual abuse as children. These women are at higher risk for a variety of emotional problems and are more likely to experience unintended pregnancy. In the 1995 national Survey of Family Growth, 7 percent of sexually active 15- to 19-year-old girls said their first sexual experience was not voluntary, and 24 percent said it was unwanted (David Finkelhor, "Current Information on the Scope and Nature of Child Sexual Abuse," The Future of Children, vol. 4, no. 2, summer/fall 1994, pp. 31-53; John N. Briere and Diana M. Elliot, "Immediate and Long-Term Impacts of Child Sexual Abuse," The Future of Children, vol. 4, no. 2, summer/fall 1994, pp. 54-69; Kristin A. Moore and Anne Driscoll, Partners, Predators, Peers, and Protectors, Washington, DC: Child Trends, Inc., 1997). [Back to text]
25. In LEAP, only about 14 percent of teenagers surveyed who were enrolled in school were using a child care arrangement paid for by the welfare agency (Dan Bloom, Hilary Kopp, David Long, and Denise Polit, 1991, op. cit.). [Back to text]
26. Alan M. Hershey, Case Management for Teenage Parents: Lessons from the Teenage Parent Demonstration, Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., December 1991; Janet C. Quint, Barbara L. Fink, and Sharon L. Rowser, 1991, op. cit. [Back to text]
29. Alan M. Hershey and Anu Rangarajan. Delivering Education and Employment Services to Teenage Parents: Lessons from the Teenage Parent Demonstration. Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research, June 1993. [Back to text]
30. The Center for Employment Training in San Jose, California placed women in job training immediately upon entry into the program, regardless of their previous educational attainment, and integrated remedial education directly into training for a specific job. By two and a half years after application, treatment group members were earning an average of $100 more per month than were control group members. See John Burghardt, Anu Rangarajan, Anne Gordon, and Ellen Kisker. Evaluation of the Minority Female Single Parent Demonstration. Volume I: Summary Report. Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., October 1992. [Back to text]
32. In Elmira, New York, the number of subsequent pregnancies during the four years after delivery of the first child was reduced by 42 percent among nurse-visited women. In Memphis, Tennessee, nurse-visited women reported 23 percent fewer second pregnancies and 32 percent fewer live births during the first two years after delivery of the first child than did women in the comparison group (David Olds, Charles Henderson, Jr., Harriet Kitzman, John Eckenrode, Robert Cole, and Robert Tatelbaum. "The Promise of Home Visitation: Results of Two Randomized Trials." Journal of Community Psychology, vol. 26, no. 1, 1998, pp. 5-21). [Back to text]
33. The special health care program for adolescent mothers under 18 and their infants, which was implemented in a large teaching hospital in an urban area in the eastern United States, reduced repeat pregnancy rates after 18 months from 28 to 12 percent (Ann L. O'Sullivan and Barbara S. Jacobson. "A Randomized Trial of a Health Care Program for First-Time Adolescent Mothers and Their Infants." Nursing Research, vol. 41, no. 4, July/August 1992, pp. 210-215). [Back to text]
34. Those programs that have combined values training with sex education (for example, the Teenage Services Program based on the Postponing Sexual Involvement model and the Self-Center) have tended to show signs of delaying sexual involvement and improving contraceptive use (Rebecca A. Maynard, 1997, op. cit.). [Back to text]
35. Kristin Anderson Moore, Donna Ruane Morrison, and Angela Dungee Greene, "Effects on the Children Born to Adolescent Mothers." In Rebecca A. Maynard, ed. Kids Having Kids: Economic Costs and Social Consequences of Teen Pregnancy. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute Press, 1997, pp. 145-180. [Back to text]
36. Through age 8, children who received the preschool intervention demonstrated significantly enhanced IQ performance compared with control group members. In addition, scholastic achievement increased as a function of the amount of intervention (Craig T. Ramey and Frances A. Campbell. "Poverty, Early Childhood Education, and Academic Competence: The Abecedarian Experiment." In Huston, Aletha C. ed. Children in Poverty: Child Development and Public Policy. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1991). [Back to text]
37. Among children in the heavier low-birth-weight group (2001 to 2500 grams), children who received the home visits and center-based child care had higher full-scale IQ scores and higher verbal IQ scores at age 5 than did their control group counterparts (Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, Cecilia M. McCarton, Patrick H. Casey, et. al. "Early Intervention in Low-Birth-Weight Premature Infants: Results Through Age 5 Years from the Infant Health and Development Program." Journal of the American Medical Association, vol. 272, no. 16, October 26, 1994, pp. 1257-1262). [Back to text]
38. The Comprehensive Child Development Program had no meaningful impacts on the cognitive or social-emotional development of participating children (Robert G. St. Pierre, Jean I. Layzer, Barbara D. Goodson, and Lawrence S. Bernstein. National Evaluation of the Comprehensive Child Development Program: Final Report. Cambridge, MA: Abt Associates Inc., June 1997). [Back to text]
About the Authors
Ellen Eliason Kisker is a senior researcher at Mathematica Policy Research. Her research focuses on welfare, child care, and early childhood development programs.
Rebecca A. Maynard is Trustee Professor of Education and Social Policy, University of Pennsylvania, and a senior fellow at Mathematica Policy Research. She studies welfare and education policies and teenage pregnancy.
Anu Rangarajan is a senior economist at Mathematica Policy Research whose work focuses on welfare policies.
Kimberly Boller is a research psychologist at Mathematica Policy Research who studies child development programs.
Moving Teenage Parents into Self-Sufficiency: Lessons from Recent Demonstrations summarizes recent research on three programs for teenage parents on welfare and then presents lessons that may be useful to state and local agencies implementing the teenage parent provisions of the 1996 welfare reform law.
This synthesis of recent evaluations was prepared for the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), under contract HHS-100-86-0045. Since researchers conducting research under government sponsorship are encouraged to express their own judgments freely, this report does not necessarily represent the official opinion or policy of the Department of Health and Human Services. The views expressed are solely those of the authors.
This report builds on a series of previous reports on the Teenage Parent Demonstration (TPD) evaluation and places the evaluation findings in the context of several other evaluation studies. Many people have contributed in significant ways to the Teenage Parent Demonstration evaluation:
- Reuben Snipper of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE), Project Officer for the evaluation, and Nancye Campbell and Judith Reich of ACF, Project Officers for the demonstration programs, provided helpful guidance throughout the design and implementation of the evaluation.
- Howard Rolston of the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) provided invaluable support of both the demonstration projects and the evaluation.
- William Prosser of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation provided guidance at various points during the first phase of the evaluation, especially in the design and implementation of the special substudies on child care issues.
- Melba McCarty, Yvonne Johnson, and Frank Ambrose oversaw the demonstration programs and provided much of the information on the programs -- Project Advance in Chicago, Teen Progress in Newark, and Teen Progress in Camden, respectively.
- Janet DeGraaf, Bonnie Mecanko, David Heinz, and Lydia Davis-Barret of the New Jersey Department of Human Services, John Bock of the New Jersey Department of Labor, and Denise Simon, Dan Davis, David Gruenenfelder, Charlie Mugler, and Susan Fitzpatrick of the Illinois Department of Public Aid were instrumental in the design, implementation and oversight of the programs and were extremely helpful during the information assembly process.
Many staff at Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., made critical contributions to the evaluation.
- Alan Hershey, co-investigator and deputy project director of the first phase of the evaluation, worked with the programs to ensure that they were implemented in accordance with the demonstration design, directed the process and implementation analysis, and led the cost analysis.
- Denise Polit, co-investigator for the first phase of the evaluation, made important contributions to the evaluation design, directed an in-depth study of a subsample of program participants, and collaborated on the report on service needs and use.
- Myles Maxfield designed and oversaw the development of the client tracking systems.
- Charles Nagatoshi provided technical assistance to the programs and monitored their operations.
- Walter Nicholson collaborated on the first report on program impacts. Phillip Gleason played a key role in the analysis of service needs and use.
- Marsha Silverberg contributed to the cost analysis and the analysis of the early impacts of the programs on child care needs and use.
- Anne Gordon, Margaret Strain, and Peter Schochet conducted special child care studies.
- Anne Bloomenthal, Sandra Scott, West Addison, Cynthia Butchley, Lynn Leubusher, Dexter Chu, Catherine Brown, Lara Hulsey, and Tim Novak constructed data files, developed analysis programs, and prepared tabulations and graphs for the reports.
- John Homrighausen, Cindy Pressler, and Todd Ensor directed the survey data collection, with important assistance from Susan Sprachman, Barbara Rogers, Jim Cashion, Janet Buffer, and Wendy Offery.
- Mike Watts and Linda Bandeh developed the Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing program for the second follow-up survey.
- Doreen Ambrose, Monica Capizzi, Cindy McClure, Debra Jones, Marjorie Mitchell, Jill Miller, and Jennifer Baskwell produced the reports and Joanne Pfleiderer, Patricia Ciaccio, and Roy Grisham edited the reports.
Finally, the mothers in the sample and their children patiently answered our many questions.
We gratefully acknowledge these contributions to the Teenage Parent Demonstration evaluation and accept sole responsibility for any errors or omissions in this report.