Families in Texas are increasingly complex and less stable. The majority of Texas children will spend some portion of their childhood living without both of their biological or adoptive parents and increasingly this pattern begins at birth.
In 2008, over 40% of Texas children were born to unmarried parents and this trend is much more common for children born to mothers who are younger and racial or ethnic minorities. Indeed, 82% of children born to 18 to 19-year-olds and 60% of children born to 20 to 24-year-old mothers were born outside of marriage. Among Black children, 72% were born to an unmarried mother, and over half of Hispanic births were nonmarital.
Texas also faces the third highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation, a trend driven largely by the high rate of repeat teen pregnancies. Each day 146 babies are born to Texas teens, while another 201 teens become pregnant. Texas’ rates are more than 50% higher than the national averages.
These trends have huge immediate and long-term public costs that show up in high school dropout rates, Medicaid and TANF expenditures, poverty rates, incarceration rates, lost tax revenue, and a rapidly expanding child support enforcement caseload. In 2004, the cost of teen childbearing to Texas taxpayers was approximately $1 billion.
Most state child support agencies have responded to the increases in teen and nonmarital births with the traditional offer of paternity establishment and child support enforcement services after the birth of the child. The Child Support Division of the Texas Office of the Attorney General (OAG) has taken the innovative step of developing a number of educational and outreach efforts that reach youth and young adults before a pregnancy occurs.
The leading example of the OAG’s efforts is the Parenting and Paternity Awareness (p.a.p.a.) Curriculum; p.a.p.a. is a school-based curriculum that sends a strong message to adolescents on how to optimally sequence their lives: complete an education, choose a career, enter into a healthy marriage, and then begin having children.
The 14-hour curriculum is designed to teach students about the rights and responsibilities of parenthood and paternity establishment, the realities of having a child, and the elements of a healthy relationship.
As a result of legislation passed in 2007 in the 80th session of the Texas Legislature, the p.a.p.a. Curriculum is now a mandatory component of the state's health curriculum and is the first large scale effort in any state to educate students on parental responsibilities using child support and paternity as the basis for the program.
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