More Social Services May Lead to More Sources of Income for Hispanic Teen Mothers

A young Hispanic woman.

"Programmatic Effects to Modify Sources of Financial Support Among Hispanic Teenage Mothers" (abstract). Matthew Lee Smith and Kelly L. Wilson. Children and Youth Services Review, Vol. 44 (September 2014).

What it’s about: To find out whether having 12 months of expanded social services would affect Hispanic teen mother's sources of income, researchers looked at 93 participants in the Project Mothers and School program, or PMAS, which primarily serves low-income students in the San Antonio Independent School District.

The control and intervention groups in the study received homebound high-school alternative education for teen parents by phone, individual parenting education, and case management by phone. The intervention group also received homebound high-school education and case management in person, group parenting classes, and life skills education and participated in teen leadership activities, a teen parenting summit, other educational events, and 100 hours of community service.

Why read it: Young Hispanic mothers experience the highest teen pregnancy rates in the United States, the second-highest rate of repeat teen births, and higher high-school drop out rates than non-Hispanic white teen mothers. There is limited research on effective interventions for low-income Hispanic teen mothers. This study starts to fill the gap, demonstrating that increasing educational and in-person services for teen mothers may contribute to their ability to access public assistance, child support and jobs.

Biggest takeaways from the research: After a year of comparing a service model conducted mostly by telephone to an expanded model with more services provided in person, Smith and Wilson’s study had the following findings:

Comprehensive educational and in-person services for Hispanic teen mothers may increase access to food stamps and child support. The researchers say the increased education, support and face-to-face interaction provided to the intervention group may have contributed to an increased number of young women receiving government support at the 12-month follow-up.

Both telephone and in-person social services may result in increased employment for Hispanic teen mothers. Increased numbers of participants from both groups reported employment income at follow-up, which Smith and Wilson think may be due to skills the women learned in the program. The authors say the participants may have gained skills that they directly applied in a new job, or possibly learned how to better navigate challenges like obtaining child care, which may have enabled them to find jobs.

Financial support from parents may decrease as teen moms become more financially self-sufficient. At the end of the study, parental support had decreased for both groups of women. The researchers say that while this may illustrate the young women’s increased self-sufficiency, decreased parental financial support could also be the result of a change in the relationship between a teen mother and her parents.

As a result of their findings, Smith and Wilson recommend social workers take on a prominent role in supporting Hispanic teen mothers, because a strong, sustained connection with a social worker can be key to a young mother staying on track towards self-sufficiency. Beyond their primary role of making referrals and providing education, Smith and Wilson note, social workers foster healthy, supportive relationships that can help moms gain a sense of self-efficacy. Social workers also play a crucial role in helping young moms understand benefits as their eligibility criteria, such as income and their child’s age, change over time, the authors say. Smith and Wilson say agencies can capitalize on social workers’ skills and strengths to put in place interventions like PMAS and help Hispanic teen mothers gain economic security.

Additional References: Learn about pregnant and parenting teens and case management in the NCFY library.

Check out NCFY’s Q&A with Ann Marie Benitez, senior manager of the Latino Initiative at The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, to learn about talking with Hispanic communities about teen pregnancy prevention.

Read NCFY’s May 2013 Research Roundup to learn how to create teen pregnancy interventions that are more relevant to Hispanic youth and communities.

Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of NCFY, FYSB or the Administration for Children & Families.

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