• July/August 2014
  • Vol. 15, No. 7

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Teen Pregnancy Among Youth in Foster Care

Teen pregnancy and parenting are associated with a host of negative consequences for young parents, and the incidence of teen pregnancy tends to be higher for youth in foster care. In "Cause for Concern: Unwanted Pregnancy and Childbirth Among Adolescents in Foster Care," an article published in Youth Law News, author Jennifer Friedman reports on a project initiated by the National Center for Youth Law (NCYL) to examine the problem of unwanted pregnancy among youth in foster care.

The article presents an overview of recent research that documents the poor outcomes experienced by teen mothers, including lower levels of educational attainment, higher rates of single parenthood, and less stable employment than youth with similar backgrounds who postpone childbirth. The children of teen mothers also experience poorer outcomes. They are more likely to drop out of high school, be incarcerated at some time during adolescence, give birth as teenagers, face unemployment as young adults, and end up in foster care. Research also shows that adolescents in foster care engage in sexual activity at an earlier age and have higher rates of pregnancy and births, both intended and unintended, than youth of the same age not in out-of-home care.

The author also notes some of the factors that may be responsible for the higher numbers of unwanted pregnancies and births among young women in foster care, including:

  • Youth in foster care often face reproductive coercion related to abusive relationships.
  • Youth in foster care experience frequent changes in placement, and this instability leads to inconsistent medical care and disrupted education.
  • There are many adults involved in the lives of children in care, including foster parents, judges, social workers, county staff, parents, or other family members, but none of these individuals is specifically charged with the child's sexual education.
  • Clear policies guiding access to reproductive health care for children in foster care and training for service providers regarding sexual education and the provision of reproductive health-care services are lacking.
  • Confusion about who may provide legal consent for reproductive health-care services can undermine the ability of adolescents in foster care to access such services.
  • Pregnant youth in foster care do not consistently receive information about how to prevent additional pregnancies.

Youth Law News will be publish more articles in the coming months that will present more information and recommend actions readers can take to address the issue of pregnant and parenting foster youth.

Youth Law News is published by the National Center for Youth Law. The article is available here:


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