COLUMBUS, Ohio - The sleepless nights and increased costs that come with parenthood are a rude awakening for anyone, but the challenge is often greater for young parents.
A new report released Tuesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, called "Opening Doors for Young Parents," underscores the need for increased programs to support people between the ages of 18 and 24 who have children. Tracy Najera, executive director at Children's Defense Fund-Ohio, said young parents are facing myriad obstacles, including getting an education and finding a viable career path.
"Compound that with the additional cost of having young children, the cost of childcare and transportation, and everything else that goes into sustaining a household and it really becomes a very difficult proposition," Najera said.
In Ohio, 12 percent of people aged 18-24 are parents, placing the state above the national average of 10 percent. There are 144,000 children living in young parent households and 123,000 such parents. The report recommends states provide increased access to child care, housing and employment opportunities.
The Casey Foundation report emphasizes 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 many are often 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."
Castaneda said by helping young adult parents navigate the difficult transitions to work and higher education alongside parenthood, the odds can change for them and their children.
"They need access to affordable high quality child care and they need healthcare and they need flexible scheduling to plan for family needs," she said; "to be able to combine work, education, and parenting responsibilities."
The report notes one-third of Ohio young adult parents are people of color, who face additional challenges of discrimination and systemic inequities.