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Child support requirement blocks teen mothers from access to care

Thanks to an initiative put into place a few years ago, the teen birth rate in Colorado has been drastically reduced. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the number of teen mothers aged 15 to 19 fell 48 percent between 2009 and 2014. However, for those mothers who do give birth as teenagers, access to child care can often be problematic.

Financial assistance is available to low income families through the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP). However, in order to qualify for such assistance, mothers in almost every county in Colorado must first take the baby's father to court to seek child support or obtain an administrative action for support prior to applying for CCCAP assistance.

The purpose of this requirement is not necessarily for mothers to gain money for child support from the baby's father. Often teenagers themselves, the fathers most likely do not have much, if any, money to contribute. Going through the process can help keep families intact and serves to keep the father involved in his child's life. It also sets the stage for potential financial support later in the child's life. However, navigating the court system can be difficult and intimidating for such young people and this requirement may be causing teen mothers to drop out of school since they are unable to afford child care without assistance.

Therefore, the Denver Post reports, legislation has been proposed that would remove the child support requirement for teen parents and domestic violence victims. Waivers are currently available but are granted on a case-by-case basis and therefore are given out inconsistently. If passed, the legislation would give teen mothers greater access to child care and the ability to invest in their education, which benefits both mother and baby alike.

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