What Happens When a Teen in Foster Care Gets Pregnant?

Thousands of teenagers wind up in foster care as a result of a traumatic experience, and pregnant teenagers in foster care are an unavoidable reality. So what happens when a teen in foster care gets pregnant?

What happens to a pregnant teen in foster care depends on whether or not there is a foster home willing and able to care for both the mother and child. The outcome of a pregnant teen in foster care is also dependent on the mother’s choices, as well as her capabilities in caring for a baby.

Teen girls who come from or are raised in insecure households or communities are more likely to become pregnant as teenagers.

Young lady wondering if she's too young to have a baby.

What Happens When a Teen in Foster Care Gets Pregnant

Many variables come into play when a teen in foster care becomes pregnant.

It depends on the pregnant mother’s choices, a foster family’s desire to take in a pregnant adolescent, the teen mother’s capacity to care for the child, and the teen mother’s ability to locate a foster home willing and able to take in the mother and her child as a pair.

A young mother’s placement in foster care does not imply that she is unfit to care for her child. Fostering teen moms enjoy being able to call someone family once again.

The unfortunate fact is that there are often insufficient resources to care for both teenagers and their newborns. Supporting foster children, in general, is one way you can assist.

It’s important to emphasize right away that some young women in foster care may wish to become pregnant.

Some foster adolescents have expressed a desire to have a baby as a teen, as some youths see having a baby as a chance to start a new family, offer stability, and prove themselves to be better parents than their biological parents, according to studies.

Furthermore, research shows that foster adolescents are more accepting of early pregnancy by their biological relatives and peers.

Some kids in care may be more likely than their peers not in care to become pregnant and have children sooner due to a desire to start a new life and stronger societal acceptability of early motherhood.

Certainly, this idea opens the door to more research and, maybe, future lobbying or educational activities.

In today’s world, teen pregnancy is a major issue. Adolescent pregnancy and parenthood are linked to a slew of negative repercussions for teen parents, their children, and society as a whole.

Foster youth, who are already vulnerable, appear to be more vulnerable to the dangers of teen pregnancy and parenthood than their peers who are not in care.

Foster children also have a greater likelihood of unintended pregnancies and births.

This shows that foster kids may face obstacles to reproductive health and pregnancy prevention services and education.

The National Center for Youth Law (NCYL) has launched a study to look at the issue of unintended pregnancies among foster children.

NCYL and Youth Law News will provide additional information about the topic in the coming months, as well as suggestions for how readers may help.

Half of Kids Born to Teen Moms in Foster Care Will Wind Up in Foster Care Themselves

Challenges of Instability Within the Foster Care System

Changes in foster care placement are common, resulting in uncertainty and instability for the youth.

According to 2011 government statistics, 47% of foster children were placed in non-relative foster families.

The average time spent in care was 13.2 months. During their time in foster care, children on average have 3.1 placement changes.

Inconsistent medical treatment and disturbed schooling are among the consequences of this instability.

Changes in placement for children in foster care are frequently followed by changes in physicians. As a result, many foster children are left with gaps in their medical treatment.

Such gaps are particularly problematic in the context of reproductive health care because birth control and sexual disease prevention are both urgent and time-sensitive demands.

Foster children frequently need to move schools if their placement changes.

Frequent school transfers have been associated with low educational attainment and engagement, as well as increased rates of school dropout, thus these shifts elevate the chance of a slew of negative effects.

Furthermore, better academic achievement has been associated with a lower likelihood of teen pregnancy.

For many foster youth, missing school may mean missing out on the only official sexual education they will receive.

These teenagers run the danger of falling behind not just in academics, but also in sex education, which is occasionally provided in regular institutions.

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Lack of Adequate Reproductive Awareness and Birth Control Availability

There appears to be a dearth of defined regulations governing foster children’s access to reproductive health care.

Only 10 states have formal rules addressing the provision of sexuality education and/or family planning services for kids in foster care, according to 1996 research by the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA). According to a recent study, the gap is still present.

Given the paucity of rules, it is unsurprising that there is a shortage of training for service providers in the areas of sexual education and reproductive health care for adolescents in foster care.

According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 58 percent of service providers dealing with foster adolescents indicated they didn’t have enough training to work with teens or caregivers on teen pregnancy prevention.

Staff working in programs for pregnant and parenting kids aren’t immune to the problem: 43% of those staff members said they hadn’t gotten appropriate training to deal with youths on pregnancy prevention. Rather than avoiding future pregnancies, such programs tend to focus on parenting.

Similarly, data shows that foster parents are under-trained in terms of sexual education and reproductive health care for their children.

Only 11 states reported teaching foster parents sexuality education, according to the Child Welfare League of America, and none of the states required foster parents to get such training.

Due to a lack of training and clear standards, some staff employees may utilize their own religious or moral convictions to lead foster youngsters in need of assistance.

What Percentage of Teenage Pregnancies End in Adoption?

Unwanted pregnancies considerably exceed planned pregnancies among foster kids, according to statistics, and unwanted births far outweigh wanted births.

According to the Midwest Evaluation, more than two-thirds of pregnant foster youth reported their pregnancies as undesired, compared to just over half of their pregnant peers.

Unintended pregnancies are also much higher among foster and former foster youth than among their peers.

It’s striking how many more foster kids than their peers who aren’t in care regard their pregnancies and births as undesired.

This shows that foster teens may experience hurdles to reproductive health and pregnancy prevention services and education that are not faced by non-foster youth.

What Benefits Can a Pregnant Teenager in Foster Care Get?

When a child in foster care becomes pregnant, one of the first concerns is naturally, what benefits can a pregnant teenager in foster care get?

Pregnant teens in foster care can get Medicaid through their foster parents. Once the baby is born, the baby will also qualify for Medicaid through the foster parents as well as qualifying for the WIC program. Each state varies in any additional assistance programs that may be available.

A pregnant teenager in foster care

Medical Coverage is Provided for the Foster Child

The majority of children and youth in foster care are Medicaid-eligible.

For all children and adolescents, health care is a basic requirement. Children and teenagers who are placed in foster care as a result of abuse or neglect may have extensive healthcare needs.

Changes in the country’s healthcare regulations have made healthcare more accessible and affordable for some of our most vulnerable children and youth, including those involved in child welfare.

Medicaid is a federal-state-funded program that provides healthcare coverage to low-income individuals who meet certain other criteria.

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Types of services that are covered by Medicaid for a foster child:

Medicaid Services for Foster Children

  • Screenings for obesity, hearing, vision, autism, and developmental delays
  • Immunizations for such things as measles and hepatitis
  • Physicals
  • Examinations for adolescents and teens, such as alcohol and drug use assessments, depression screenings, HIV screenings, and sexually transmitted infection counseling and screening
  • Pediatric care
  • Mental health services
  • Outpatient care
  • Hospitalizations
  • Necessary surgeries
  • Prescriptions
  • Maternity and newborn care
  • Lab services

Within broad federal parameters, states select their eligibility criteria.

While states are not allowed to utilize federal child welfare monies to pay for Medicaid, they do receive some reimbursement from Medicaid to assist in helping with the expenses of insuring foster children.

Poverty and other risk factors, such as parental substance addiction or mental illness, may be linked to health problems.

Actual abuse or neglect, including medical negligence, as well as the disturbance produced by removal from the home and placement in foster care, can all contribute to poor health.

Children in foster care had much higher rates of developmental disorders, certain medical disorders (e.g., vision disorders, teeth, and jaw disorders), and several behavioral disorders, including attention deficit and adjustment disorders.

In comparison to adolescents who were not in foster care, youth in foster care had three times as many behavioral/mental health diagnoses and were more than twice as likely to require inpatient care of any sort.

The risk factors connected with poor health in foster children can lead to long-term and even life-long difficulties.

Studies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) study show that the number of ACEs (abuse, neglect, parental substance abuse, witnessing domestic violence) increases the risk of adulthood heart disease, suicide, HIV, and other conditions that can lead to early death.

WIC

The WIC (Women, Babies, and Children) Program was established in 1972 to give low-income women, infants, and children up to the age of five health and nutrition assistance.

The US Department of Agriculture manages the program, which was made permanent in 1974. WIC gives federal subsidies to each state, which then distributes vouchers to program members.

WIC serves about half of all infants born in the United States

Foods such as infant cereal, fruits and vegetables, dairy products, canned proteins, and full-grain bread are purchased with vouchers in local supermarkets and pharmacies.

Who Does WIC Serve?

  • Pregnant women up to 6 weeks after birth or after pregnancy ends
  • Breastfeeding women up to infant’s 1st birthday
  • Non-breastfeeding postpartum women up to 6 months after the birth of an infant or after pregnancy ends
  • Infants up to 1st birthday.
  • Children up to their 5th birthday

Program Advantages

  • Supplemental nutritious foods
  • Nutrition education and counseling at WIC clinics
  • Screening and referrals to other health, welfare, and social services

Common WIC Locations

  • County health departments
  • Hospitals
  • Mobile clinics (vans)
  • Community centers
  • Schools
  • Public housing sites
  • Migrant health centers and camps
  • Indian health services facilities

What WIC Vouchers Cover

  • Infant cereal
  • Baby foods
  • Iron-fortified adult cereal
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Vitamin C-rich fruit or vegetable juice
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Soy-based beverages
  • Tofu
  • Peanut butter
  • Dried and canned beans and peas
  • Canned fish
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Other whole-grain options

The WIC Program

WIC is effective in improving the health of pregnant women, new mothers, and their infants.

A 1990 study showed that women who participated in the program during their pregnancies had lower Medicaid costs for themselves and their babies than did women who did not participate.

WIC participation was also linked with longer gestation periods, higher birth weights, and lower infant mortality. 

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Trina Greenfield - Adoption Author

About the Author:
Trina Greenfield is passionate about providing information to those considering growing their family. Trina does not run an adoption agency. Her website is strictly information-based, so she is able to provide unbiased, credible information that she hopes will help guide those along their journey.