By Manica F. Ramos, Renee Ryberg, Jessica Warren, Claire Wernstedt-Lynch, Michael Martinez, Child Trends, June 29, 2022
Young parenting students (ages 18–25) are highly motivated to pursue a college education to improve not just their own well-being, but also their children’s. However, young parenting students face many hurdles in navigating their pursuit of higher education, especially as they juggle school with their many other responsibilities—all while they themselves are still developing. And when young parenting students seek supportive services, they too often find siloed systems that are misaligned with their needs.
In this brief, we first provide context and background on parenting students. We then narrow our focus to young parenting students and explore the challenges they face in seeking higher education and services to support themselves and their families. Next, we describe one promising strategy that communities are using to support young parenting students in their journeys through higher education: navigation services. We draw on a broad scan of literature on navigation services to explain how these services can be used to support young parenting students, both in the short term by connecting students with supportive services and in the long term by helping them improve their self-advocacy skills as they navigate complex systems. We also offer examples of navigation practices, based on the experiences of three communities in the Expanding Opportunities for Young Families (EOYF) initiative. Specifically, we highlight navigation service strategies used at these three sites, and three young parents share their stories about receiving or providing these services. We close the brief by describing three opportunities for practitioners to maximize the benefits of navigation services for young student parents.