Federal Earmark supports teens and teen parents

Published February 25, 2011

In 2008 and 2009, Eastern Michigan University's College of Education was awarded two Earmark Grants from the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) totaling $837,000. The grants were to provide wraparound services to teen parents. On December 31, 2010, the wraparound service to 44 high risk teens/teen parents who were involved in this grant project ended. Co-directors Dr. Karen Carney and Dr. Derrick Fries, professors in the Department of Special Education, along with their Project Coordinator, Laura Urteaga-Fuentes, are now analyzing the results of this effort.

EMU Wraparound required a partnership with professionals and agencies in two Michigan counties to assist in identifying and serving the high risk teen parent. The greatest proportion of the teen parents served by EMU was at risk due to homelessness, followed by those having emotional or mental health needs. Some were at risk due to being in, or aging out of, foster care and/or already having court involvement. All came to EMU Wraparound because they were in a crisis situation where they needed support to get their lives back on track.

EMU Wraparound involved a facilitator (such as a Social Worker) working with the teen parent to identify a supportive team to help the teen follow through with goals that she/he set. This approach was person-centered, acknowledging the teen parents' strengths and abilities to direct their own lives. Finding that some of the teen parents were not able to identify anyone for their support team, the grant hired and trained mentors who were matched to clients. Recognizing the importance of connecting with teens prior to their becoming a teen parent and/or dropping out of school, a small pilot program of providing wraparound services in a school was also established.

After 21 months, it appears that the teen parents who met with their facilitator at least 5-6 times over an 8 month period were most successful, attaining over half of their goals, on average. Using a tool developed for grant purposes, the Success Index for Teen Parents shows teen parent growth towards safe, and more successful lives in education, housing, finances, employment, and legal problems. By helping teens set and achieve their life goals, a cost-benefit analysis shows that it would cost on average $750 for those students who stayed for at least 8 months in Wraparound, whereas it would have cost $18,574 if these students had stayed that same amount of time in a shelter, $23,092 in foster care, $50,702 in juvenile detention, and over $80,000 in a residential facility.

As part of the grant, national dissemination has begun. In February 2011 Dr. Carney and Dr. Fries presented preliminary research results at the National Alternative Educators Association conference held in Nashville, TN. The title of the presentation was "Alternative Education Dropout Prevention Using Wraparound for At-Risk Students." The presentation focused on the value of using a wraparound process in working with high risk teens whose life events are causing them to drop out of high school. Further dissemination plans are in place for spring and fall of 2011.