Making Back to School Easier for Teen Parents

The calendar has clicked over to August. The scramble to soak up the last days of summer and begin preparing for going back to school begins. At Nebraska Appleseed, our Low Income Economic Opportunity Program is also thinking about school for low-income families.

Nebraska Appleseed has long recognized that education is one of the surest pathways out of poverty for people receiving Aid to Dependent Children (ADC) assistance. Particularly for young parents, pursuing an education is a key strategy for long-term economic stability.

Unfortunately, Nebraska’s ADC regulations regarding work hour definitions make it very difficult for a teen to receive assistance and complete their High School Diploma or Certificate of General Equivalence (GED). In simple terms, a 19 year old teen parent cannot fulfill their work hour requirements by attending high school – they must complete 20 work hours a week on top of high school and parenting. Read Nebraska Appleseed’s fact sheet on the issue.

Removing this administrative barrier would help more teen parents in our state succeed in their efforts to pursue education and long-term economic stability. Education is the cornerstone of moving Nebraskans from dependence to economic self sufficiency and changing the rules to allow teen parents to receive assistance and fulfill their work hours through pursuing a high school diploma better establishes them for long-term success.

Certainly, Nebraska Appleseed is pursuing a change to this administrative policy, and we hope to see positive forward progress in this area. However, there is a deeper question here: are our public assistance systems focused on long-term success – for participants and for the state? At the end of the day, the best models of family assistance programs have a double bottom line: they assure basic needs today and skills for tomorrow in a practical way. As we move forward in economic recovery and budget conversations, let’s all keep our “eyes on the prize” of long-term success.

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