Supporting Young Families
By Janet Max
Director of Programs and Policy, Healthy Teen Network
Preventing teen pregnancy is something that we, as a nation, strive for. But regardless of our prevention efforts, a certain number of young people in the United States each year do become involved in a teen pregnancy, whether through failure to abstain from sexual activity or contraceptive non-use, misuse, or failure. While teen pregnancy prevention, both primary and subsequent, must remain a major focus we also must commit to providing equal opportunities to those young people who do become pregnant and who choose to become parents, as well as their children. Many young families face multiple barriers to health and wellbeing--including high school completion, job training, child care, stable housing, healthy relationships, access to health care both for themselves and their baby--not only because the parents are still youth themselves but because many are at a lower socioeconomic status than their non-parenting peers. The specialized service needs of young families are often overlooked in both family and youth policies and practices. Healthy Teen Network believes that with the right resources and supports young parents can be loving, responsible and effective parents. Healthy Teen Network has a variety of policy and program recommendations for organizational use, as well as preliminary research on promising programs for this population.