Teen-age mothers enrolled in a comprehensive program to train them for jobs and help them become better parents went on to earn higher salaries than women who did not receive the help, it was reported Thursday.
Children of women aided by Project Redirection also did better than the children of the comparison group, said researchers who followed up on those who participated in the program five years ago.
"The program led to more people working -- and people earning more when they were working," said Judith Gueron, president of the Manpower Demonstration Research Corp., which managed the project.
Project Redirection, funded by the Ford Foundation and the U.S. Department of Labor, operated from 1980 to 1982 in Riverside, Boston, New York and Phoenix, and later extended to seven other places, the foundation said. More than 800 teen-age mothers participated for about a year each.
Five years after the program, 34% of the women who had participated in Project Redirection were employed, earning an average of $200 a week, Gueron said.
Among a comparison group that was not enrolled in the program, 28% of the women were employed five years later, and they earned an average of $161 a week.
Researchers said the project's most dramatic effect was on teen-agers who were receiving welfare when they enrolled in the program.
Five years later, 34% had gotten jobs. They earned an average of $224 a week.
Among the comparison group initially on welfare, 24% were employed five years later. They earned an average of $154 a week.
"We've known for some time that teen mothers are at great risk of long-term welfare dependency," Gueron said. "It is particularly helpful to have positive results now that Congress and the states have shown interest in making teen mothers a priority for services."
The program targeted low-income women, 17 years old or younger, who had a child or were pregnant and who had not completed high school. They received health care, education and help preparing for jobs, and also learned nutrition, family planning, parenting skills and household budgeting. Women from the community served as mentors for the teens.
The researchers found that the program enhanced the teen-agers' parenting skills. Their children scored better in vocabulary and behavior than did the children of women not enrolled in the program.
To build on the findings of Project Redirection, Gueron's company, a nonprofit research organization that designs and evaluates programs for the disadvantaged, is developing another program called New Chance.
That project is expected to provide education and employment services for up to 2,000 mothers, all high school dropouts on welfare, in 20 communities.