The federal government is awarding $23 million to fund initiatives aimed at preventing teen pregnancy, particularly among young people in the foster care and juvenile justice systems. This builds on the $68.5 million granted for the same purpose earlier this summer.
The funding comes from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Population Affairs and is intended to foster innovation, build an evidence base and improve equity in the office’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPP).
“Our TPP program provides new research on innovative practices or specific populations and settings, which can support greater equity in TPP programming overall,” Admiral Rachel L. Levine, Assistant Secretary for Health, said in a press release. “The overarching goal is to improve adolescent sexual and reproductive health, promote positive youth development, and advance health equity.”
The awards are for five-year projects, beginning in September.
This round of funding is aimed at programs working with populations that have greater needs and disparities in the context of sexual health. Several of the recipient projects are focused on youth in the foster care and juvenile justice systems, who have significantly higher rates of teen pregnancy and early parenthood compared with their peers. Other target populations include teens who are already parents, rural youth and younger teens.
Twelve projects are being supported with this latest round of funding. Four sites will focus specifically on youth in the foster care or juvenile justice systems: The University of Texas at Austin, Policy and Research L.L.C., the Institute of Women & Ethnic Studies, and the Seattle-King County Public Health Department.
The Research Triangle Institute will focus on young people who are already parents or pregnant. Others will offer programming for middle and high school students, some on campus and some virtually. The nonprofit Child Trends will be funded to provide education to parents and caregivers.
In addition to reaching underserved populations, the projects will test innovative delivery approaches, including video games, instructional videos and other virtual learning options.
In June, the office announced $68.5 million in funding spread across 29 states and Puerto Rico. The 53 recipients included Planned Parenthood centers, state and city health departments, nonprofits and universities. OPA officials estimated the programs would collectively serve 210,000 youth annually.
Youth in foster care are roughly twice as likely to experience teen pregnancy as their peers, and many of those who become pregnant as a teen report more than one pregnancy, according to Chapin Hall’s Midwest Study. Just 22% of the pregnant study participants reported that they’d wanted to get pregnant, and these young parents are also much more likely to see their children enter foster care.
As The Imprint reported earlier this year, access to comprehensive sex ed and reproductive health care is lacking for many foster youth. In the investigation “High Stakes, Silent Systems,” reporter Michael Fitzgerald shared findings from a review of every states’ child welfare policies: “There is little or no mention of healthy relationships and sexuality education, the prevention of sexually transmitted infections or the rights of foster youth to access contraception and abortion.”
The federal government acknowledged this disparity, noting in a 2023 report that youth in foster care are “a population at disproportionate risk of poor sexual health outcomes.”