Tennessee has the potential to do a better job helping young parents. And failing to do so could leave an impact on multiple generations.
That's according to a report released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, called "Opening Doors for Young Parents." The study underscored the need for increased programs to support people between the ages of 18 and 24 who have children.
Rose Naccarato, Kids Count director with the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, said if they're not supported, the odds are stacked against them.
"It's a big transition to become a parent. And when you're in that 18 to 24 age range, you're going through a lot of other transitions," Naccarato said. "You're taking care of yourself financially for the first time and trying to figure out what you're going to do after graduation."
In Tennessee, 13 percent of people aged 18 to 24 are parents, placing the state above the national average of 10 percent. There are 99,000 children living in young-parent households and 75,000 such parents.
The report recommended states provide increased access to child care, housing and employment opportunities.
The Casey Foundation report emphasized the importance of a father's involvement in a child's life and their development. But Rosa Maria Castaneda, senior associate at the foundation, said men often are left out of programs that support young families.
"They want to be involved in their children's lives, however they're less likely to be supported through many of our programs and policies to be able to be involved and to be able to provide for their children," Castaneda said. "They are really neglected. We should support their involvement."
Tennessee has programs such as Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect that help some young parents pursue post-secondary education. But Naccarato said there are other needs going largely unaddressed.
"There's also additional challenges of being able to find someone to take care of children and just generally the finances of supporting a household when you're that young," she observed.
She added that numerous bodies of research indicate better economic situations for families improve the healthy development of children and their ability to succeed.