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June 2007Vol. 8, No. 5Early Head Start Supports Teen Parents

Early Head Start (EHS) programs are in a unique position to help teen parents, especially those involved with the child protective services system and those who have children with disabilities. As part of the Federal Head Start program, EHS provides a range of services to eligible low-income pregnant women and mothers with infants and toddlers, many of whom are teen parent families. A new issue brief from the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) examines the special needs of these families and highlights promising EHS programs and activities across the country.

Teen parent families may face increased risks for child abuse and neglect and for disabilities and developmental delays in children. Studies have shown that teen parent participation in EHS programs helps improve child development and parenting behavior and increases economic self-sufficiency and the family's ability to access support services.

The report highlights the importance of increased collaboration between EHS programs and other systems serving teen parent families, especially child protective services and early intervention programs. EHS can collaborate with the child welfare system to prevent child abuse and neglect by teaching teenage parents appropriate parenting techniques, improving their knowledge of child development, and connecting them to support services. EHS programs can also identify children who may have disabilities and facilitate access to appropriate services.

The full report, Early Head Start and Teen Parent Families: Partnerships for Success, is based on discussion and findings from a 2-day meeting of EHS providers. Descriptions of the EHS programs and services represented by participants are included. The report was funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and is available on the CLASP website: (PDF - 3,440 KB)