Teen mom struggles to find work


For Porschea Kensey, a 15-year-old mom, a job means independence. If only she could find one. 

For the past 5 to 6 months, she’s had no luck, just like thousands of teens in Minneapolis who need to earn money for similar reasons.

Porschea is one of the many teens in the metro area who are unemployed and looking for a job. “I’ve been looking for a job mainly at restaurants, those seem to be the most available ones,” she said.

ThreeSixty Journalism is nonprofit youth journalism program based at the University of St Thomas in St. Paul. It is committed to bringing diverse voices into journalism and related professions and to using intense, personal instruction in the craft and principles of journalism to strengthen the civic literacy, writing skills and college-readiness of Minnesota teens.

According to Joe McLaughlin, an associate researcher with the Center of Labor Market Studies, nearly 70 percent of employed teens work in 3 industries: retail, entertainment, & recreation, and accommodation and food services. “However, these industries have been hit hard during the (economic) downturn so job prospects are still bleak in these areas,” said Joe McLaughlin.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the current teen employment rate is about 25 percent. The Bureau estimated in March 2010 the adult unemployment rate at 9.7 percent.

“Teen parents face extra challenges when looking for a job. This includes transportation, availability of time, and even being able to afford clothing for interviews or jobs,” said Laura Tanz, a social worker at Broadway High School. The school is specifically for teen parents and helps them in all areas of their lives.

“Anyone who actually needs even at least a little help is being greatly affected by (the economy),” Tanz said.

Porschea’s job at the moment could just add up to being a student and a mother. Even so, she wants to do more to be able to support herself and her 15-month-old baby girl, Saniyah. They live with Porschea’s mother in South Minneapolis.

While Porschea wakes up early to get her baby ready for daycare and get herself ready for school, her mother goes to work. Porschea’s mother is the one who supports the three of them at the moment. Saniyah’s father also helps. “He watches her and spends time with her. He takes care of her on the weekends and buys her things,” Porschea said.

Even with the financial help of both Saniyah’s father and Porschea’s mother, Porschea feels like she needs to start helping keep the three of them in a good financial situation.

Tanz recommends teen parents turn to government-funded programs for help finding a job. “Minneapolis gives our teenagers the opportunity to have programs to find jobs such as STEP-UP, the Workforce Center, and even the (Division of Rehab Services),” Tanz said.

These programs give teenagers extra job training too, she said.

Porschea knows that having a job at her age, going to school, and having a baby will be difficult. At the moment she doesn’t have other plans on how to earn money. And she’ll need a baby sitter for Saniyah if she finds a job.

Even with all the trouble, Porschea is not giving up hope. “I’m quite sure I will get a job somehow” she said.