How New Jersey can help young parents thrive in the state
The Annie. E. Casey Foundation is focused on improving the well-being of American children, with goals to build better futures for disadvantaged families.
Rosa Maria Castaneda, senior associate at the foundation says in New Jersey, said there are 44,000 young adult parents, ages 18 to 24, who face hurdles to support their children and fulfill their own potential.
Also, 55,000 children in New Jersey have young parents ages 18 to 24. Sixty-seven percent of the children of young New Jersey parents live in low-income families, she said.
She said the poverty rate in New Jersey is well above the national level. Most of these children in the state are infants and toddlers, in their most vulnerable years.
The foundation is trying to draw attention to the challenges that young parents encounter and offering solutions so they are not shut out of opportunities, Castaneda said.
While people in the past have had children at all ages, it's tougher today. Gaining a foothold in today's economy has never been more challenging for young people, Castaneda said.
The median income for families of young parents is barely above the federal poverty line for a family of three, according to the foundation. In a high-tax state like New Jersey, this can be an even more serious problem.
"Every state has an opportunity to help young parents pursue their education and find employment. Every state can invest in job training for young people and provide the work support so that young parents can participate in those," Castaneda said.
She also said every state can boost access to college and boost on-campus child care so young parents can balance their aspirations and desires to support these children.
Castaneda said the goal is to help young parents achieve financial stability and get on better financial footing in the early years, when it matters most to children.
One way to do that, Castaneda said, is for states to expand the earned income tax credit to young parents, ages 18 to 25. This has already proven to reduce poverty and pay dividends for their children, she said.
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