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Tennessee Missing Opportunities to Give Young Adult Parents and Their Kids a Boost

New Casey Foundation report illuminates needs and barriers facing Tennessee’s young parents and their children
Tuesday, September 25, 2018 | 12:01am

Contact: Rose Naccarato | rose.naccarato@tn.gov | 615-532-1583

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — With limited access to opportunities to advance their education and find family-sustaining jobs, Tennessee’s 75,000 young adult parents face hurdles to support their children and fulfill their own potential, according to Opening Doors for Young Parents, the latest KIDS COUNT® policy report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT grantee in Tennessee, the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, joined the call for action so these young parents can contribute to the state’s communities and economy.

The fifty-state report reveals that, at 13 percent, Tennessee is above the national average (10 percent) of youth ages 18 to 24 who are also young parents.

The report highlights the following statewide trends and areas of concern:

●    99,000 children in Tennessee have young parents ages 18 to 24.

●    73 percent of children of young parents in Tennessee live in low-income families, which is above the national
average.

●    Only 12 percent of young parents ages 18 to 24 have completed an associate degree or higher.

●    39 percent of Tennessee’s young parents are people of color, facing challenges exacerbated by discrimination and systemic inequities, with their children standing to suffer the most.

“Becoming a parent is life-changing at any age,” said Rose Naccarato, KIDS COUNT director at the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, “but young parents are less likely to have finished their education or found a long-term career and so they have unique challenges to their time and finances.”

The report spotlights a national population of more than 6 million, including 2.9 million young adult parents, ages 18 to 24, and 3.4 million children nationwide living with young parents.

Opening Doors for Young Parents illuminates the most common obstacles young adult parents face, including incomplete education, lack of family-sustaining employment opportunities, lack of access to quality child care, inadequate and unstable housing and financial insecurity.

These barriers threaten not only these young adults, but also their young children, setting off a

chain of diminished opportunities for two of our nation’s future generations. But the report
includes recommendations for addressing the obstacles that young parents face, most of which can be driven by policy solutions at the state level.

The Casey Foundation stresses the importance of a two-generation approach to equip young parents for success.

“If we don’t support young people when they become parents, we are cheating two generations out of having a positive future,” warned Casey Foundation President and CEO Patrick McCarthy. “We can help young adult parents develop the skills they need to raise their children, contribute to their communities, and drive our national economy forward.”

The Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth further stresses the importance of helping the state’s young parents access educational and employment opportunities. In an increasingly competitive workforce landscape, education can make a significant difference in earning power for families. However, as the data demonstrate, young adult parents here in Tennessee, like young parents nationwide, do not have the post-secondary education or specialized skills to obtain family-sustaining jobs.

About the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth

The Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth is an independent agency created by the Tennessee General Assembly. Its primary mission is to advocate for improvements in the quality of life for Tennessee children and families. Information on the agency is available at www.tn.gov/tccy.

About the Annie E. Casey Foundation

The Annie E. Casey Foundation creates a brighter future for the nation’s children by developing solutions to strengthen families, build paths to economic opportunity and transform struggling communities into safer and healthier places to live, work and grow. For more information, visit www.aecf.org. KIDS COUNT® is a registered trademark of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

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