Foster Youth Need Us to Pay Attention
Updated: Feb 11
By Eleni Pacheco
Texans Care for Children recently released a report highlighting life for foster youth both during and after foster care, and the impact this has on their chances of becoming teen parents. The risk of becoming a teen parent is almost five times higher for foster youth than for their peers who are not in foster care, with 550 pregnant or parenting teens in the state's care last year.
Key Strategies for Addressing Teen Pregnancy Among Foster Youth
The first step to addressing an issue is prevention. This can be widely achieved through inclusive and empathetic educational programs that teach communication, healthy relationships, and reproductive health. Given the extensive challenges for foster youth, such as severely high rates of trauma and disproportionate numbers of LGBTQ(+) youth in the system, educators need to be thoroughly trained on approaching sexual health with added sensitivity to student needs.*
Secondly, youth need access to health services, both to prevent teen pregnancy and to ensure healthier pregnancies and babies. Foster youth, for example, are able to consent for a prescription for hormonal birth control without a guardian, but when surveyed, only 55% knew that they had that option. In fact, those in foster care are more than 15% less likely than their peers to use contraception when they start having sex.
Finally, strategies and protocols are needed to support pregnant and parenting foster youth, who are less likely to receive prenatal care, postpartum care, and face higher rates of low birth weights. Fortunately, youth in foster care are eligible for Medicaid coverage through STAR Health Insurance — and the vast majority are enrolled in this coverage. Those working with this population need to be sure that they understand their right to confidential healthcare and ensure they are accessing the services they need.
*Healthy Futures of Texas supports foster youth through abstinence-plus education that is medically accurate, trauma-informed, and includes valuable information about healthy relationships and sexual health. We also provide annual trauma-informed training for educators and youth-serving adults.
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