Child Poverty

Investments in young parents and their children offer a two-generation opportunity to lift families out of poverty

November 1, 2018 | Ohio

November 1, 2018

By Nicole Thomas, PhD

Last month, the Annie E. Casey Foundation published a new report showing the needs and barriers facing Ohio’s young parents and their children. With limited access to opportunities to advance their education and find family-sustaining jobs, Ohio’s 123,000 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.

As the Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT grantee in Ohio, Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio joined the call for action to ensure young parents succeed, as well as contribute to the state’s communities and economy.

The fifty-state report reveals that, at 12 percent, Ohio 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:

  • 144,000 children in Ohio have young parents ages 18 to 24.
  • 73 percent of children of young parents in Ohio live in low-income families, which is above the national average.
  • Only 11 percent of young parents ages 18 to 24 have completed an associate degree or higher.
  • 36 percent of Ohio’s young parents are people of color, facing challenges exacerbated by discrimination and systemic inequities, with their children standing to suffer the most.

Although Ohio has seen an increase in high school graduation rates and a decrease in teen births, many children are born to young parents who lack the education and skill set needed to sustain a family in today’s economy. Further, children represent the poorest segment of our state’s population. Young parents and their children need better access to high quality, affordable child care, which supports children during an important period of development and supports young parents as they pursue employment and educational opportunities to better provide for themselves and their families.

The report spotlights a national population of more than 6 million people, 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.

We must stress the importance of helping the state’s young parent’s 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 Ohio, like young parents nationwide, do not have the post-secondary education or specialized skills to obtain family-sustaining jobs.

On October 23, 2018, the Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio hosted a discussion in Columbus, Ohio bringing together a small diverse group to learn more about the Opening Doors for Young Parents report, discuss the needs of families and children in central Ohio, and discuss programs that are showing promising results. Some of the key takeaways from this conversation included:

  • Discussed barriers to young families accessing services to help their families and programs that could provide workforce training and help them secure employment. These challenges and barriers include childcare, location of jobs, and higher education needs. A takeaway from the conversation is that programs should acknowledge common problems faced by young parents and especially young parents of color, including transportation, stress of housing insecurity, food insecurity, and other similar insecurities around the “basics” of life.
  • Identified examples of programs and approaches right here in central Ohio that attempt to holistically address the needs of families – especially young families. Examples include partnerships with rental property managers (Belle Harbour and others moving renters into houses and providing social services on site), and local higher education institutions addressing the holistic needs of their students (Columbus State Community College and housing).
  • Discussed need to place services where families are living. With transportation and housing being critical issues for families, services should go to where the families are who need the most help. An example discussed is the Van Buren Homeless Shelter, which is described as one of the largest in the country. On any given day the shelter houses over several hundred children and their families with many children under the age of one.

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, building paths to economic opportunity and transforming struggling communities into safer and healthier places to live, work and grow. For more information, visit KIDS COUNT® is a registered trademark of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.