By Lauren Mann of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy
Briana, Katie, Mackenzie and Alex shared their individual stories back on "16 & Pregnant," and now they've let the cameras in once again for "Teen Mom 3," which documents all four of them navigating their first year as parents. True to the series' predecessors, there was a ton to learn about the triumphs and struggles of young mothers in the premiere episode.
Briana, Katie and Alex all mention how expensive it is to raise a child. About $240,000-for-18-years expensive. It's no wonder nearly half of all teen mothers ages 15 to 19 live below the poverty line. Alex is working three jobs to support herself and Arabella, while Katie and Joey barely spend any time together since they work opposite schedules to make sure someone is always home with Molli.
Briana, like 63 percent of teen mothers, is receiving public assistance to help with things like groceries and diapers. She hasn't received any financial help from Devoin, which is not uncommon among teen mothers. More than half of teen mothers who are raising their children don't have any child support agreement in place and haven't received any money in the past year. Briana isn't proud of the fact that she relies on the government to help her with money, but without any child support from Devoin, she has no choice.
The program that Briana mentions, WIC, stands for Women, Infants and Children, and provides nutritious foods, education on nutrition and referrals to health and other social services for free. To qualify, applicants must be at "nutritional risk" and fall below U.S. Poverty Income Guidelines (currently $42,643 for a family of four). WIC is a short-term program, usually lasting only from six months to a year. Participants "graduate" at the completion of the program and must reapply to continue to receive benefits. Sometimes a state does not have enough funding for every eligible applicant and must prioritize a waiting list based on the health of the individual or child or severity of the situation. Still, in 2010 alone over 9 million people received WIC benefits, resulting in improved birth, diet and health outcomes for women and children.
To find out more about the WIC program, eligibility and how to apply, as well as for links to other nutritional assistance programs, check out the US Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service website.
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