Youth in Foster Care are at Increased Risk of Becoming Teen Parents

Existing data, although limited in scope, suggests that teens in foster care have higher rates of teen pregnancy than their peers who are not in care. Child Trends has released a new report, Teen Parents in Foster Care: Risk Factors and Outcomes for Teens and Their Children, which reviews existing research literature on teens in foster care and examines analyses of data to assess the extent to which teens in foster care are at risk of teen pregnancy and parenting. Some of the risks outlined include:

  • family structure (being raised in single-family homes)
  • turbulent home environment
  • socioeconomic status
  • exposure to abuse and neglect
  • academic performance and school engagement
  • behavior problems
  • sexual risk taking

The brief also identifies several challenges to reducing rates of pregnancy and childbearing among teens in foster care and to preventing negative outcomes for these teen parents and their children, including:

  • difficulty in discussing teen sexual activity and relationships
  • disruptions in placements
  • heavy caseloads among caseworkers
  • lack of consensus about who should provide sex education
  • limited focus on outreach to teen males

The goal of the research was to increase understanding of this population, to inform strategies to reduce teen pregnancies in foster care, and to support teen parents living in foster care and their children. As a result, the brief suggests strengthening the research as it pertains to addressing the outcomes among teens in foster care. Recommendations include:

  • constructing a more comprehensive view of the issue,
  • developing a better understanding of the current child welfare practices for teens at risk of teen pregnancy
  • describing the experiences of teens in foster care, particularly those who become parents while in the system, as well as the experiences of children who are born to these parents

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