Parenting is hard for everyone. But young parents face unique challenges.
Some 28,000 young adults in Iowa (ages 18-24) face hurdles in supporting their kids while fulfilling their own vocational and academic goals, according to the latest KIDS COUNT policy report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Of the 36,000 children in Iowa with young parents, 37 percent live below the poverty line and 65 percent live in families with incomes less than twice the federal poverty level.
Des Moines Register reporter Shelby Fleig shared the stories of young mothers and their kids at the Young Women's Resource Center in Des Moines in an Oct. 2 front page feature.
Center staffers Michael Crawford and Sheila Hansen both spoke with Fleig about the report's implications. "Single parenting is not necessarily a bad thing, but over time, more than half of single parents live below the poverty level at one time or another," Crawford said. "[The median income] is barely enough to make ends meet."
Why focus on young parents, specifically those ages 18-24? This specific demographic is likely to be overlooked, as services often focus on even younger parents. Consequently, the significant needs of this new generation of parents are lost in the shuffle.
What can be done to help young parents thrive? For starters, state and federal policies need to prioritize young adults, helping them succeed in school, at work and at home. Here are a few examples:
- Expand Iowa's child care assistance program so more young adult parents have reliable child care while they go to school and work to establish careers
- Lower the earned income tax credit eligibility age for childless workers to 21 to help nonresident fathers contribute to their children's economic stability
- Enhance home-visiting programs that equips young parents to understand their children’s developmental stages and build their parenting skills
Read the full report "Opening Doors for Young Parents" here.