New report: Young adult parents face harsh reality

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COLUMBIA - A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows that young adult parents are facing hardships with education and financial insecurity.

The most common obstacles, according to the report, include financial insecurity, disrupted education, lack of employment and career growth, lack of access to quality child care, inadequate and unstable housing, health challenges and lack of knowledge and experience as parents.

In Missouri, there are 67,000 young adult parents and 67 percent of children with young parents live in low-income families. 

College students are already low-income but when young adults are trying to get a college education and also take care of their child, it is hard to have money in the bank. 

Tita Susilawati, a young parent living in graduate housing said that the hardest part is having to work with different schedules.

"I cannot work because the schedule is different. In the same time, I have to pick up my daughter and pick up my son at the same time so it's crazy," Susilawati said.

Because her kids now go to the same school and her husband has more time outside of being a graduate student, she is now working at a dining hall at the University of Missouri.

The report states that 18 percent of 18 to 24 year-old parents have less than a high school diploma, 61 percent is employed full or part time, and the median family income is $23,000 a year.

Tracy Greever-Rice, the Program Director for Missouri Kids Count said that those parents are trying to get the education they need to gain more skills and get more money in the long run but having a child during that process makes it a challenge. 

“One of the things we can do to support them is to ensure that resources are coordinated. They need to do things like expand access to health insurance,” Greever-Rice said.

She said if those young adult parents don’t have to worry about health care, that cost is off the table, and they can use their money for other things.

 “It opens up the ability to stay in school and do vocational training that doesn’t have health insurance already available,” Greever-Rice said.

Another issue the report brought up was the fact that even as an 18 to 24 year-old, their brain is still not developed. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, the brain is only fully developed at age 25. So these young adults who are also parents have to work with their child’s development as well as their own.

The report has data but also recommendations for communities. The first recommendation is resources.

In Missouri, there is the Missouri Mentoring Partnership that helps young parents or those who are pregnant and under 21. According to their website, they help increase parenting skills, immunization and promote education.

There is also child care assistance and low-income housing options for young adults with kids.

Colleges and universities have their own resources such as housing for married students or students with children.

“They have to face all the responsibilities everyone has to, but with a baby. It’s just harder,” Greever-Rice said.

Susilawati is looking to get her masters in the future but money is always a barrier.