Roz Brown, Public News Service–NM
Sept. 27, 2018

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Young adult or teenage parents face many of the same challenges as older parents, and a new report examines the significant hurdles that stand in their way without adequate support.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation research says New Mexico’s 33,000 young parents often find it difficult to support their children and fulfill their own potential.

It says many families headed by people ages 18 to 24 live in poverty.

Amber Wallin, deputy director of New Mexico Voices for Children, says the 50-state report shows the national average of young parents is 10 percent, but in New Mexico, it’s 16 percent.

“Those young people are facing the same challenges that all young people are facing, things like finishing high school or maybe going into college, getting their first jobs, learning how to manage money and increase their earning potential,” she points out.

Her organization, which includes New Mexico Kids Count, maintains one way to improve outcomes for young parent families is to increase home-visiting programs and coaching for first-time parents.

Wallin notes that program reaches only a fraction of needy young parents, because it isn’t fully funded by the state.

Rosa Maria Castaneda, a senior associate with the Casey Foundation, says young parents often have limited education and financial resources.

In New Mexico, only 9 percent of parents ages 18 to 24 have an associate degree or higher. She says that makes it difficult to sustain a family in a society that increasingly requires post-secondary education and specialized skills.

“Young parents have less access to these, and they’re less able to participate in these programs and not have their education disrupted, because they’re having some challenges just meeting some basic needs,” she states.

The report recommends greater access to child care, housing and employment opportunities.

In New Mexico, 80 percent of young parents are people of color, which means challenges can be exacerbated by discrimination and inequities in the system that affect their children as well.

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