#10: Connecting Parenting Foster Youth to Resources, Child Care
The Imprint is highlighting each of the policy recommendations made this summer by the participants of the Foster Youth Internship Program, a group of 11 former foster youths who have completed congressional internships.
The program is overseen each summer by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute. Each of the participants crafted a policy recommendation during their time in Washington, D.C.
Today we highlight the recommendation of Junely Merwin, a graduate of California State University-Fullerton.
Congress should approve funding to help more state and county systems adopt a conferencing model developed in Los Angeles that connects pregnant and parenting teens in foster care with resource specialists. It should also pass the Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act of 2021, which would actually guarantee access to child care for all parents, not just those with experience in foster care.
For every 10 young women who age out of foster care, more than seven will have a child by age 21, Merwin writes, citing a 2015 study. These young parents will often be unprepared, dealing with their own placement issues in foster care, and unjustly living under the stigma that they did something wrong.
Congress must act, she argues, to connect them with professionals that know how to connect them with supports specific to foster youth, and also pass universal child care to take one of the biggest barriers to parenting as a young adult off the table.
In Their Own Words
“After being removed and placed into my second foster home, I was fortunately connected to a voluntary specialized pregnant parenting teen through an Expectant Parenting Youth … individualized conference. The program and conference was similar to a family group decision meeting that helped me create a support system and access vital resources including health care, legal aid, and education.”
The Imprint’s Take
Merwin’s personal experience says it all. She entered foster care at age 15 with a one-month old child, having had little help during her pregnancy. But with support from the parenting teen conference program, and with access to subsidized child care, Merwin was able to obtain a full scholarship and graduate from Cal State Fullerton.
Without the kind of help most people get from their parents, this terrific mom and student might have struggled to be either through no fault of her own.
Testing out an expectant parenting youth conference would have been something that the old waivers from Title IV-E rules would have been great for; now, perhaps a demonstration grant would work instead. We also wonder if, given how much the Family First Act zooms in specifically on pregnant and parenting youth, such a conference might qualify for a match under the administrative aspect of Title IV-E funding for states.
And whether universal child care becomes a reality or not, access to this support for parenting foster youth is undeniably essential.
Correction: This article previously suggested that Merwin received supportive services during pregnancy, and has been corrected to reflect that those services occurred only after she entered foster care with her child.