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Opening Doors for Young Parents Like Me

By Tina Agonva

In 2008, I became a young parent raising a newborn. It was not easy. Kentucky has 57,000 children who are living with a parent who is between 18 and 24 years old, according to the latest policy report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Opening Doors for Young Parents. At 81%, our state ranks second in the nation for the percentage of children of young parents living in low-income families.

I quickly learned that young adult parents also need what all young adults need, access to education and job training, strong mentors and skills to be ready for today’s workforce. As well as what all parents need, access to affordable high-quality child care and parenting programs to create financially stable families. These resources make it possible for young parents to be independent and create a stable life for their child(ren).

Research shows that young parents often need extra supports to recognize the developmental stages and needs of their children. I was fortunate to have been connected to services such as the Kentucky’s Health Access Nurturing Development Services (HANDS), which supports families as they build healthy, safe environments for the optimal growth and development of their children. It’s a home visiting program for pregnant moms-to-be and new parents that supports all areas of your baby’s development. The HANDS program supports you throughout your pregnancy and the first two years of your baby’s life. You can enroll in the HANDS program through the Face It Movement’s partner, Family & Children’s Place, or in a program near you.

Challenges with child care can hold young parents back from attending school or holding a job. The Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) was another program that was vital for me to support my daughter. I was a single parent at the time and this program helped with the cost of childcare. My daughter was able to learn in a safe, high quality child care facility while I was able to provide for us without the financial burden that paying childcare can be. Parents can learn more and apply for CCAP through the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Also, parents can find tips on choosing a child care center for their child and other resources from Community Coordinated Child Care, a partner in the Face It Movement. 4-C serves as the central point of contact for the child care community and provides guidance for child care centers on sharing information on appropriate expectations and developmental milestones of children with parents and caregivers.

Another thing that would have been helpful when my daughter was young is the supports at Jewish Family and Career Services. JFCS offers parenting classes and support groups and will assist you in continuing education and finding a job. This is an amazing resource to help young parents gain independence and provide for their families. I wish I would have known of JFCS in my early twenties. I would have used their resources to search for a job and I could have used their parenting classes to help me navigate all the tough parenting moments.

Despite the challenges of being a young parent, my daughter and I are doing well. Having access to affordable childcare and parenting classes helped me become a successful adult and allowed my daughter to succeed in school. All parents, especially young parents, need these extra supports to help their families thrive.