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Second Chance Homes: Providing Services for Teenage Parents and Their Children

Second Chance Homes: Providing Services for Teenage Parents and Their Children

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Second Chance Homes: A Promising Strategy to Break the Cycle of Dependency

Need for a Supportive, Adult-Supervised Living Arrangement

While there are many teenage mothers who never enter any social welfare system, others do not have the supports that they need to make it on their own. Many teenage mothers are not necessarily able to remain at home with their parents, either for reasons of overcrowding in the home, abuse and neglect, or financial difficulty. They may not have family, friends, or other resources available that enable them to meet the basic needs for themselves or their children. Teenage mothers who are unable to live at home with their families are vulnerable on many fronts. They encounter all of the demands of parenting and being a teen, and are often faced with the additional need for stable housing. Without other supports, these teenage mothers are likely to experience periods of homelessness, spend time in foster care, or rely on welfare for assistance.

Younger teenage mothers may face additional challenges as a result of their age. These young mothers may experience difficulty finding a place in which to live with their children. For instance, homeless shelters, battered women’s shelters and transitional living programs may not always accept teenagers who are under the age of 17, nor do these programs generally accept young children. Further, placement in foster care does not always ensure that the mother and child will remain together—the placement of both the teenage mother and her child together is contingent on the availability of a trained foster care provider or group home that is willing to take both the teen and her child. Young mothers who are homeless come up against many of the same hurdles as young mothers in foster care, including poverty, barriers to education and other supports. Their primary need is housing. One study indicates that 80 percent of minor mothers who are homeless are unable to find long-term stable living arrangements, and could be in need of a Second Chance Home or similar arrangement.

What is a Second Chance Home?

There is not a single definition of a Second Chance Home, but the common elements include support, supervision, and a safe place to live. The term "Second Chance Home" can refer to a group home, a cluster of apartments, or a network of homes that integrate housing and services for teen mothers and their children who cannot live at home because of abuse, neglect or other extenuating circumstances. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) introduced legislation in 1999 (S.208) that defines Second Chance Homes as entities that "provide custodial parents under the age of 19 and their children with a supportive and supervised living arrangement in which such parents would be required to learn parenting skills, including child development, family budgeting, health and nutrition, and other skills to promote their long-term economic independence and the well-being of their children."

Second Chance Homes can be discrete programs or they may be run by agencies with broader missions and services. Second Chance Homes can be more transitional in nature, with shorter-term stays, or the services and programs can be provided over a longer time period. Some maternity homes, a type of Second Chance Home, are funded to address needs during pregnancy and to prepare for transition after delivery, and therefore allow residential stays often only during pregnancy and a very short time after delivery. Those that offer longer stays for the mother and child are designed to help minor/teen mothers plan for and develop a transition plan for another place to live. In some instances, Second Chance Homes also involve the fathers of the children to provide assistance with parenting and provide fathers with access to services they may need to become good parents, acquire skills or gain employment. Second Chance Homes may also help reconnect young mothers with their families.

Renewed Interest

Churches and non-profit organizations have been operating group homes or maternity homes for teen mothers for many years. There has been a resurgence of interest in Second Chance Homes that has been driven in part by the welfare reform law— the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA P.L. 104-193)— as well as the support of the President, many members of Congress, and state officials. One provision of this welfare reform legislation, specifically pertaining to the living arrangements of minor parents, stipulates that mothers who are minors must live with their family members or another responsible adult as a condition of receiving cash assistance. If a minor mother does not meet this requirement, the state is required to provide an alternative living arrangement, such as a Second Chance Home. While most minor mothers live with family members or other adults, there are some who are not able to live at home or with relatives. These minor mothers on welfare are most likely to be in need of a Second Chance Home or an alternative living arrangement.

A number of non-governmental organizations, including the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) and the Social Policy Action Network (SPAN), have been actively encouraging the creation and expansion of Second Chance Homes. One estimate indicates that there are as many as 50 Second Chance Homes already operating in the United States. The Second Chance Homes National Directory, published by SPAN in October, 2000, lists 100 homes in 29 states. At least six states (Massachusetts, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Nevada, Georgia and Texas) have allocated resources to Second Chance Homes, making a statewide commitment to serve young mothers who have no other place to go. There are other states that are considering this option. In his FY2001 budget, President Clinton proposed providing $25 million in federal funding to support the creation and expansion of Second Chance Homes.

Promising Models

Second Chance Homes potentially offer the opportunity to address a wide range of needs for teenage mothers and their children. These programs can impact areas such as pregnancy outcomes, health of newborns, parenting style, maternal well-being and economic self-sufficiency, and child development. The underlying intent of Second Chance Homes is very much in keeping with the objectives of the welfare legislation, promoting the self-sufficiency of young mothers while at the same time emphasizing the well-being of their children.

Among existing Second Chance Homes networks, there is tremendous variation in how the programs are run and how they are funded. Massachusetts, for instance, operates a statewide network of homes which is run by two state agencies: the Department of Social Services and the Department of Transitional Assistance. As of October, 2000, there were 21 programs across the state—some of which are group homes or supervised shared apartments. Each program is different in structure and approach, but all of the programs offer stable housing and supports to young mothers and their children who do not have a place to live. Some programs maintain emergency beds for teens who have an immediate need for housing and who have no alternative place to live during the assessment period. These beds are typically for teen mothers who are in need of short term residence. The state covers most program operating costs and pays providers for services. These services are only available to teen TANF recipients.

In New Mexico, there are currently 9 Second Chance Homes across the state. Unlike Massachusetts, the state has limited oversight of the programs. Instead, state officials offer local communities start-up money and provide guidance on how to piece together the programmatic services and structure, serving teens from a wide range of backgrounds (including juvenile justice and foster care).

Major Federal Funding Resources Available

The two largest sources of federal funds within the Department of Health and Human Services come from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant to states (Title IV-A of the Social Security Act) and the Social Services Block Grant (Title XX of the Social Security Act). These two programs provide funds to states that may be important sources of support for young parents and can be used to fund Second Chance Homes. In addition, there are other federal funding sources, such as Child Welfare and Foster Care funds provided to the states, the Independent Living Program, and the Transitional Living Grant Program.

Because Second Chance Homes include housing along with programs and services, there are also several potential sources of funds within the Department of Housing and Urban Development. In addition to the Community Development Block Grant, there are the Supportive Housing Program funds and the Emergency Shelter Grants Programs— both for homeless individuals. Additionally, properties for Second Chance Homes can be acquired through HUD programs such as the Dollar Homes Program, the Non-Profit Sales Program and under the McKinney Act Title V Program.

Existing estimates of operating costs for Second Chance Homes vary greatly, depending on the structure of the home, the nature of the services provided, and the length of stay for both the mother and her child(ren). Estimates of the cost for a mother and her child range from anywhere between $20,000 to $63,000 per year. Many of the funding sources that are available for the establishment and operation of Second Chance Homes offer some flexibility on how the funds can be used—but some restrictions remain, particularly in relation to costs associated with the construction of facilities to house Second Chance Homes—and who is served by them.

Under the TANF block grant and other available sources of funding, states have increased flexibility in designing programs to serve teenage parents, and more generally families in need. However, the block grant system has also decentralized programs and information, making it at times more challenging for states to gather information or evaluate their options. The appendix provides more details on the major funding resources that are available through the Departments of Health and Human Services and Housing and Urban Development.

Continued
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