Eight thousand children in Wyoming have young parents ages 18 to 24. Close to 60 percent of those families are low income, according to the Opening Doors for Young Parents report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Samin Dadelahi, Chief Operating Officer at the Wyoming Community Foundation, said young parents aren't the problem but the lack of resources to support them is what she'd like to see change. She said Wyoming's rural nature can make it challenging to sustain programs to support young parents in smaller, less populated communities.
"That then becomes an issue for policymakers in our state," said Dadelahi. "What can we do in Wyoming that is going to have a broader effect in the state to help all of our young parents?"
Those young parents face more financial insecurity than older parents because they haven't had the same opportunity to build savings and many are yet to complete advanced degrees. Dadelahi said the upside is in Wyoming there are already good programs in place like Head Start, Parents as Teachers and the Family Nurse Partnership that support young families.
"Downside is the best one of those programs that works in the most counties is Early Head Start and that's in nine counties and on the Wind River Reservation. So nine counties out of 23."
Dadelahi said it's up to lawmakers to create statewide policies that ensure young parents — even in the smallest and most remote communities — have access to the support they need. She suggested instead of creating freestanding programs, policymakers could expand opportunities for early childhood education and pre-k through the school system.