Bricks, Mortar, and Community: The Foundations of Supportive Housing for Pregnant & Parenting Teens

Gina Desiderio

Healthy Teen Network and Child Trends developed two resources on the core components of supportive housing—a resource defining and detailing what the core components include and a  report on findings from the field based on a national survey, phone interviews, and case studies. This blog post summarizes key points from these resources.

Supportive Housing is a highly integrated system of living arrangements and professional case management services that provides pregnant and/or parenting teens a safe place to live, 24-hour access to caring adults, and connections to community resources. This system helps young parents develop necessary skills and secure resources needed to maintain housing throughout adulthood. Supportive housing programs can be more effective when young parents shape and direct their future in partnership with case managers and other key staff.

Case managers play perhaps the most critical role in supportive housing, assessing youth as individuals so that their unique needs may be met most effectively. Flexibility, individualization, nurturing, guidance through positive role modeling, and consistent coordination by one caring adult professional are key elements of case management services.  While not all supportive housing programs may provide direct services related to each core component (defined below), all supportive housing programs should provide referrals and support access to services and resources in the community, making use of collaborations and partnerships. The case manager oversees, when not personally providing, access to these direct services. The case manager is the professional primarily responsible for creating an equal partnership with the young parent, developing a life plan driven and owned by the youth to help him/her transition to independent living.

Core components are the critical elements—supports and resources—of supportive housing that provide a skills-building foundation to help young parents develop self-sufficiency so that they may be successful and engaged parents and productive members of society.  The core components are what make supportive housing “supportive.”  Programs that incorporate these core components are more likely to achieve desired outcomes.  Each core component cannot stand alone to support independent living; rather the core components are complementary because each one builds upon the others, together making up the foundation of a supportive housing program.

Healthy Teen Network and Child Trends identified the following five Core Components of Supportive Housing for Pregnant and Parenting Teens:

  1. Supports and Resources to Promote Self-Sufficiency: Help youth to develop basic self-sufficiency skills, so that s/he will be able to transition to independent living, accessing resources and services as needed without the assistance of a case manager.
  2. Supports and Resources to Promote Housing Stability: Facilitate attainment of affordable housing in a safe neighborhood, and continued housing stability and independent living upon completion of the program.
  3. Supports and Resources to Promote Financial Stability: Help youth to work toward financial stability by facilitating educational attainment and employment at a livable wage, as well as financial literacy.
  4. Supports and Resources to Promote Successful and Engaged Parenting and Attachment: Facilitate successful and engaged parenting skills, fostering attachment between parent(s) and child.
  5. Supports and Resources to Promote Healthy Relationships: Cultivate a sense of self-worth and right to healthy relationships with partners, peers, family, and the community, as well as the skills to resolve conflict, solve problems, and negotiate.

For more information on each of these five core components, see the resource, The Core Components of Supportive Housing for Pregnant & Parenting Teens.

For examples of supportive housing programs incorporating these five core components, as well as findings a survey conducted of supportive housing programs, see The Core Components of Supportive Housing for Pregnant & Parenting Teens: Findings from the Field.

With the support of the core components, built on top of and around the bricks and mortar of supportive housing, pregnant and parenting teens can thrive both as individuals and as parents.  The flexibility, individualization, and consistent coordination by case managers, working in equal partnerships with youth, establishes a positive and responsive environment in which youth may grow.  While a single organization may not be able to address all of pregnant and parenting teens’ needs, collaborations and partnerships provide opportunities to leverage capacity and meet those needs.  Promoting self-sufficiency, housing stability, financial stability, successful and engaged parenting and attachment, and healthy relationships provides a well-rounded approach to meeting the diverse needs of pregnant and parenting teens, helping them to transition to independent living.

What do you think about these core components?  Have you found them to be integral to supporting pregnant and parenting teens?

Gina Desiderio is the Director of Marketing and Communications at Healthy Teen Network.

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