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Prepped for Success? Supporting Pregnant and Parenting Teens in Chicago Schools

July 1, 2003

In 2000, there were 8,153 births to mothers under the age of 20 in the city of Chicago. Forty-one percent of those births (3321) were to teenagers 17 or younger. Research has demonstrated that teen mothers are more likely than other teens to drop out of school and become dependent on welfare. 2 When a teen mother does not finish high school, she is more likely to become trapped in poverty than her better-educated peers. With so many potential negative effects of poverty on the teen and on her child, it is critically important to help the teen mother finish her education while she is still young and more likely to finish. During the course of its work on issues around pregnant and parenting teens, the Center for Impact Research (CIR) has heard from several advocates and service providers about the barriers teen parents face in furthering their education. 3 In addition to helping pregnant and parenting teens prepare for their new parental roles, many teen service providers help young parents navigate through various institutional systems. Some of these service providers reported negative impressions about how various educational systems in Chicago deal with pregnant and parenting teens. Service providers believed that some Chicago Public Schools teachers and administrators were not addressing the needs of pregnant and parenting teens and were inappropriately pushing them out of CPS schools and referring them elsewhere.

No Place to Grow: The Unsafe and Unstable Housing Conditions of Illinois Pregnant and Parenting Youth and Their Children

June 1, 2003

In an attempt to determine the number of pregnant and parenting youth in need of alternative living arrangements throughout Illinois, the Center for Impact Research (CIR), in collaboration with its working group members, conducted a statewide needs assessment to obtain more information about the housing needs of pregnant and parenting youth in Illinois. CIR developed and conducted a survey of organizations that provide services to pregnant and parenting youth throughout Illinois. CIR's findings demonstrate the urgent need for a statewide focus on providing alternative living arrangements for this population.

Accessing TANF Assistance: A Survey of Low-Income Young Mothers in Chicago

April 1, 2002

In 2000-2001, the Center for Impact Research (CIR), in collaboration with other concerned organizations, set out to obtain more information from young mothers about their experiences with TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) receipt in order to determine if changes in the TANF application process for teens are needed, and whether the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) is effectively engaging teens in the TANF system. Working with community-based organizations, CIR trained young mothers to locate and survey other young mothers in low-income communities. A total of 601 young mothers, ages 13-21, were interviewed. Summary of Findings: CIR found that many young mothers were told they were ineligible for TANF and left TANF offices without having filled out applications; that those who had applied and were not receiving TANF were in need of education and employment; and that the older respondents -- who no longer qualified for the in-depth case management -- were experiencing more hardship than younger respondents.

Knocking on the Door: Barriers to Welfare and Other Assistance for Teen Parents

April 1, 2002

The 1996 welfare reform legislation, which established the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, sought, among other purposes, to move recipients off of welfare and into work and to prevent long-term welfare receipt. Policymakers recognized that concentrating on teen parents was an important part of tackling the problem of long-term receipt of welfare: although teen parents represent only about five percent of the overall TANF caseload, historically about 50 percent of adult welfare recipients began parenting as teens. The legislation adopted a new approach for minor teen parents, creating two major requirements -- commonly known as the "living arrangement rule" and the "stay-in-school rule." The first required unmarried, custodial teen parents under age 18 to live at home or in an adult-supervised setting, and the second required that they participate in school or approved training until obtaining a high school diploma or General Educational Development (GED) equivalency diploma. In the years since 1996, some states have reported greater declines in the number of teen parents receiving TANF relative to the general caseload declines. Limited qualitative information indicated that some teens were being turned away at local TANF offices, without having the opportunity to complete applications -- that is, they were knocking on the door but not getting in. Because TANF can have an important role in helping low-income teen parents stay on track towards economic independence, this information alarmed teen parent advocates and led the Center for Impact Research (CIR) to conduct a collaborative survey project in Chicago to determine what was happening to teen mothers who were in need of assistance. The Chicago survey was replicated in Boston and Atlanta, and this report highlights the collective findings across the three sites. In conducting the survey, CIR intended that about half of the respondents in all three sites were current recipients of TANF assistance and half were not.

Helping with Domestic Violence: Legal Barriers to Serving Teens in Illinois

November 1, 2000

In the spring of 1999 the Center for Impact Research (CIR) and the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health conducted a study looking at the prevalence of domestic violence among teen mothers receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families in Chicago.1 In a sample of 474 teen mothers on the south and west sides of Chicago, CIR found that 55% of the young women had experienced some level of domestic violence at the hands of their boyfriends in the previous 12 months. The study also found a strong association between domestic violence and birth control sabotage, where teen girls' attempts to use birth control were undermined or thwarted by their partners. In qualitative interviews it became apparent that many of these low-income teen mothers were experiencing severe difficulties with escaping domestic violence due to a lack of temporary or permanent housing opportunities. CIR subsequently began to conduct research with the goal of identifying the legal and regulatory barriers to serving teen victims of domestic violence.