What Percentage of Girls in Foster Care Are Pregnant by 21?

What Percentage of Girls in Foster Care Are Pregnant by 21?

7 out of 10 Foster Girls are pregnant by 21 years old

Almost 20% of youth in foster care report having consensual sex for the first time at or before 13. In comparison, only 8% of foster children's peers report the same in the general population in the United States.

Getting pregnant in foster care is not unusual for young women. Yet, there are significant consequences for the parents, the children, and our communities.

Read on further for statistics on young adult pregnancy and what it means for teen mothers in foster care.

What Happens When Young Women Age Out of Foster Care

More than 23,000 children age out of foster care each year upon turning 18. They often are faced with adversity after being forced to enter the world of adulthood without a family to love, support, and guide them.

Statistics show that these young adults are at greater risk of homelessness, poor mental health, unemployment, or jail. There's an extremely high rate of substance abuse among young adults who age out of foster care, and many have PTSD.

The challenges mount up for young women. Their chances of becoming pregnant are high, and they are also vulnerable to human trafficking.

Teenage pregnancy is rife, and less than 2% of women who become mothers as teenagers attain a college degree before reaching 30. That's a stark contrast to numbers among the general population, where 33% of women have a college degree by this age.

Why Teen Pregnancy is Common Among Foster Girls

A complex web of factors places girls in foster care at a greater risk of pregnancy. They're more likely to have suffered from child abuse. And this can lead to a range of physical and emotional problems as they enter adulthood.

Teens and young women are at increased risk of abusive relationships. This often involves abusive and controlling behavior towards someone the abuser is dating or seeking to date. Statistics suggest that women who were in the foster care system suffer intimate partner violence and reproductive coercion at higher rates than their peers in the general population.

Unfortunately, it's often the case that no one is taking responsibility for the child's sex education. The instability of the foster care system means there may be gaps in medical care, school, and sound advice. And there can be massive consequences at this age. Lower educational performance is linked with a higher risk of unwanted pregnancy.

There's a notable lack of sex education and reproductive health information in the foster setting. Alarmingly, 59% of child welfare workers admitted that their program lacked a specific plan to prevent teen pregnancy.

Sometimes, foster youth deliberately get pregnant because they desire to create a family of their own. They may believe a child can provide stability in their life and see it as an opportunity to prove themselves as a mother.

The education of adolescent pregnancy for teens in foster care should be readily available. They should be taught about early signs of pregnancy, home pregnancy tests, and symptoms of pregnancy so they can make an informed decision about their options as pregnant teens or women.

Teenage girls need guidance and loving support. Foster care programs should help with this education.

The Statistics on Pregnancy Among Foster Youth

It's time to take a look at the cold, hard statistics. The National Foster Youth Institute reported that 7 out of 10 girls who age out of foster care become pregnant by 21 years old.

What's clear is that young women in foster care, and those who have aged out, are at much greater risk of teen pregnancy than those with stable family life.

A study by the Midwest Evaluation of the Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth reached similar conclusions. The researchers followed a sample of 732 foster care youth in Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin aged 17 and 26. They found that 71% of the women who had been in foster care became pregnant by the age of 21, compared with 34% of the general population.

A Utah study of children in foster care also gathered concerning results about young adult pregnancy among former foster girls. They found that 31% of women aged 18 and 24, who aged out of the foster system, became mothers within three years of leaving. That rate is 2.74 times higher than the general population.

Prevention Efforts and What More Can be Done

There are initiatives to prevent teen pregnancy and improve sexual health among foster youth being implemented in certain states in the United States. However, the statistics indicate that we must do much more.

In 2010, Power Through Choices (PTC) was launched. It's a comprehensive sexual education course that encourages foster youth to make healthy and positive choices concerning sexual behavior.

The Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP) awards grants to certain state agencies. These agencies educate adolescents about unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. This program targets youth aged 10 to 19 at high risk of pregnancy.

There's plenty more that can be done. Child welfare agencies can put more attention on sexual education. Foster youth must be given the necessary information to make good decisions.

As mentioned earlier, people around foster youth are reluctant to take responsibility and engage with young women about issues related to sexuality. To do this, foster parents and child welfare workers need training to learn how to approach this. Caseworkers and foster parents can be proactive by undergoing training themselves.

Foster youth must always have access to health care. Caseworkers should ensure that all foster youth regularly receive age-appropriate information about reproductive health and pregnancy prevention.

Ultimately, better access to sexual education is crucial to helping foster youth. 

Girls Get Pregnant in Foster Care at an Alarming Rate

Evidently, without the support and guidance of a family, women are at high risk of becoming pregnant after entering foster care and after aging out. The numbers are revealing, but child welfare agencies can do lots more to help prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Did you find this article informative? Contact us to learn more about the possibility of becoming a foster parent.

Fill out our web form