"I have to say Visions (a Second Chance Home in Massachusetts) helped me quite a bit, I loved them. I wanted to go somewhere [with my life], and the staff respected me for that."
- Tara, age 18
"When I was younger I said, ‘I’m never going on welfare. I’m going to college’ (but) school was just too much... I know I need help for me and my son. I always wanted to be a lawyer when I was a kid, but now with a kid and all, I just want to go one step at a time --- be a paralegal, and then college and law school."
- Sabrina, age 19
Second Chance Homes are adult-supervised, supportive group homes or apartment clusters for teen mothers and their children who cannot live at home because of abuse, neglect or other extenuating circumstances. Second Chance Homes can also offer supports to help young families become self-sufficient and reduce the risk of repeat pregnancies. They provide a home where teen mothers can live, but they also offer program services to help put young mothers and their children on the path to a better future. Several federal resources are available to help state and local governments and community-based organizations create Second Chance Homes that provide safe, stable, nurturing environments for teen mothers and their children.
Second Chance Homes programs vary across the country, but generally include:
- An adult-supervised, supportive living arrangement
- Pregnancy prevention services or referrals
- A requirement to finish high school or obtain a GED
- Access to support services such as child care, health care, transportation, and counseling
- Parenting and life skills classes
- Education, job training, and employment services
- Community involvement
- Individual case management and mentoring
- Culturally sensitive services
- Services to ensure a smooth transition to independent living
Second Chance Homes offer a nurturing home for society’s most vulnerable families, teen mothers and their children with nowhere else to go. Almost half of all poor children under six are born to adolescent parents. Children of teen mothers are 50 percent more likely to have low birthweight, 33 percent more likely to become teen mothers themselves, and 2.7 times more likely to be incarcerated than the sons of mothers who delay childbearing. Teen mothers are half as likely to earn their high school diplomas or GEDs and are more likely to be on welfare than mothers who are older when they give birth. In addition, research shows that over 60 percent of teen parents have experienced sexual and/or physical abuse, often by a household member. Limited early findings indicate that residents of Second Chance Homes have fewer repeat pregnancies, better high school/GED completion rates, stronger life skills, increased self-sufficiency, and healthier babies.
Second Chance Homes help teen mothers and their children comply with welfare reform requirements. Under the 1996 welfare law, an unmarried parent under 18 cannot receive welfare assistance unless she lives with a parent, guardian or adult relative. However, if such a living arrangement is inappropriate (for example, if her family’s whereabouts are unknown or if she was abused), states may waive the rule and either determine her current living arrangement to be appropriate, or help her find an alternative adult-supervised supportive living arrangement such as a Second Chance Home. Also, in states where alternatives such as Second Chance Homes are currently not available, teen mothers could be forced to choose between inappropriate living arrangements and losing their cash assistance. Making Second Chance Homes available to teen mothers in need could provide these teens with stable housing, case management, and preparation for independent living.
Second Chance Homes can support teen families who are homeless or in foster care. State foster care systems may not have the capacity to place the teens and their children together, and frequently, homeless shelters, battered women’s shelters, and transitional living facilities cannot accept teen parents under age 17. Unfortunately, homelessness poses the threat of separation in young families. For vulnerable families with no safe, stable places to go, Second Chance Homes can help fill the gap.
Eligibility criteria for Second Chance Homes vary from program to program. Some programs are targeted for adolescent mothers (between the ages of 14 to 20, for example), mothers receiving welfare assistance, or homeless families. Other programs are open to any mother in need of a place to live --- regardless of age, income or the assistance program for which she qualifies. Teen mothers can be referred to Second Chance Homes through welfare agencies, homeless shelters, or foster care programs, or by community organizations, schools, clinics, or hospitals. Mothers may also self-refer.
Nationwide, at least 6 states have made a statewide commitment to Second Chance Home programs: Massachusetts, Nevada, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Texas and Georgia. In statewide networks, community-based organizations operate the homes under contract to the states and deliver the services. States share in the cost of the program, refer teens to homes, and set standards and guidelines for services to teen families. In addition, there are many local Second Chance Home programs operating in an estimated 25 additional states. For a directory of programs, please visit the SPAN Web site.
State legislatures may allocate Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) block grant funds for Second Chance Homes. Like TANF, state maintenance-of-effort (MOE) funds and the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) are flexible, and largely under states’ discretion in terms of how they are spent. States and communities may also explore other sources of funding from HHS and HUD (see the attached chart). Additional state and private sources of funding are available to fill in funding gaps, help providers acquire or rehabilitate Second Chance Homes, or develop specialized Second Chance Homes for teen parents who are homeless or in foster care.
The list of available resources chart contains detailed information on the major sources of Federal funding for Second Chance Homes that are available from HHS and HUD. In addition to the Federal sites that are included in the chart, more general information on the program may be found at the Administration for Children and Families (the agency that oversees most of the relevant programs within the Department of Health and Human Services) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. There is also a HHS paper describing Second Chance Homes and some things that decision makers at the state and local levels may want to consider as they start or implement a Second Chance Home program.
There are a number of non-governmental organizations that have been actively assessing Second Chance Homes and providing technical assistance to states. The Social Policy Action Network (SPAN) has been a leader in documenting existing programs, identifying best practices and developing guides and a directory of homes. For more information about SPAN, call 202-434-4767 or visit the SPAN Web site. Other organizations that can provide useful information about providing services to teen parents in need include The Child Welfare League of America, Florence Crittendon Division (CWLA), the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) and the Center for Assessment and Policy Development (CAPD).