By the time they are 21, more than 50% of female foster youth have a child. This is more than twice the pregnancy rate of their non-foster peers.
Due to the 2010 extension of foster care to age 21, this high pregnancy rate has entered the policy spotlight. Today, these transition-age youth may choose to remain within the foster care system, and often lack the resources and supports critical to parenting.
Consequently, foster care support organization First Place For Youth has conducted an investigation into these disparities and how to best address them. Entitled More Than Me, the resulting report examines the “characteristics and outcomes of parent and non-parent foster youth alumni of First Place For Youth’s My First Place program.”
The My First Place program was initiated in 1998 for the purpose of providing foster youth with the housing, intensive case management, and individualized education and employment services that they need to successfully make the transition into independent adulthood. The program currently operates within California’s San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, Los Angeles, and Solano counties.
The study pinpointed the small differences between the program’s parent and non-parent groups; parents were less likely to be employed or to have their high school diploma or G.E.D. Participant total incomes were higher among the parents, though non-parents had higher average earnings from employment specifically. Furthermore, parents have significantly more difficulty pursuing a post-secondary education and stable career than their non-parent peers.
The report presented several recommendations for policy and practice changes that could better serve both the parent and non-parent transition-age youth population, in light of these findings. These include, as listed in the Executive Summary:
- Improving access to, and the availability of, affordable child care
- Extending the service runway for parenting foster youth
- Developing a universal pregnancy prevention strategy for foster youth
- Providing universal parenting and early childhoods services to parenting and pregnant foster youth
- Investing in a two-generation approach service model to optimize the benefits to parenting foster youth and their children; and
- Leveraging additional income resources for parents while they pursue education and employment goals.
In an email statement by First Place For Youth CEO Sam Cobbs, he summarized the study’s implications for the foster community.
“Although parents make strides through our service-rich stable housing program, they face the ongoing challenge of dedicating their time and resources not only to themselves but their children,” Cobb wrote. “This makes reaching education and employment goals more difficult than for non-parents. The persistence of these disparities points to the need for extended and specialized support, including affordable child care and early childhood trainings and services.”
You can read the report in its entirety here.
The research was funded by the Butler Family Fund, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Hedge Funds Fare and Kaiser Foundation Hospital Fund.