Young Women in Foster Care Likely to Delay Parenting With Financial Support for Education

Posted April 23, 2021
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Students in a classroom listening to a lecture

When young women in fos­ter care have access to finan­cial assis­tance for edu­ca­tion, they are less like­ly to have first and repeat births, accord­ing to research find­ings high­light­ed in Fac­tors Asso­ci­at­ed With First and Repeat Births Among Females Eman­ci­pat­ing From Fos­ter Care, an arti­cle from the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion and recent­ly pub­lished in the social sci­ence jour­nal Chil­dren and Youth Ser­vices Review.

The arti­cle — coau­thored by Tam­mi Flem­ing, a Casey senior asso­ciate; Jim Casey Young Fel­lows Blan­ca Goetz and Sheila Van­Wert; Svet­lana Shpiegel of Mont­clair Uni­ver­si­ty; Lisa Mishraky of the Cen­ter for the Study of Social Pol­i­cy; and researchers from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mary­land and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to — sheds new light on a fre­quent­ly over­looked pop­u­la­tion that often lacks a net­work of car­ing, sup­port­ive adults.

This research under­scores the need for child wel­fare sys­tems and com­mu­ni­ties to help alle­vi­ate the obsta­cles that young peo­ple aging out of fos­ter care face, so they have bet­ter chances at reach­ing their edu­ca­tion­al and voca­tion­al poten­tial and pro­vid­ing a safe and nur­tur­ing envi­ron­ment for their children.

Young moth­ers — and young fathers — want to be good par­ents and they know that a good edu­ca­tion is a sol­id foun­da­tion that can enable them to cre­ate the con­di­tions for a strong fam­i­ly,” Flem­ing says. We must do more to ensure that these young par­ents — as well as those who are not yet par­ent­ing — have the edu­ca­tion­al sup­ports they need to succeed.”

Fac­tors Relat­ed to Parenting

The study ana­lyzes fac­tors linked to both increas­ing and decreas­ing the like­li­hood of giv­ing birth and repeat births among fos­ter youth tran­si­tion­ing to adult­hood. Risk fac­tors include dis­con­nec­tion from school and employ­ment, place­ment insta­bil­i­ty and not remain­ing in extend­ed fos­ter care. Mean­while, data from the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion’s Oppor­tu­ni­ty Passport®’s bien­nu­al sur­vey of youth in fos­ter care indi­cates that edu­ca­tion and train­ing assets rep­re­sents close to 20% of all assets pur­chased in the Oppor­tu­ni­ty Pass­port pro­gram. What’s more, an analy­sis by Child Trends indi­cates that a young per­son (whether par­ent­ing or not) who has made an asset pur­chase since their last sur­vey has 2.7 times high­er odds of report­ing being in school than those who have not made a pur­chase relat­ed to education.

Ear­ly Par­ent­ing Com­mon Among Youth in Fos­ter Care

The article’s authors ana­lyzed a nation­al sam­ple of females, ages 19 through 21 who had aged out of fos­ter care, and found that 30% had giv­en birth. About one-third of this group of young women had already giv­en birth ear­li­er in life, gen­er­al­ly between ages 17 through 19.

Our study shows that ear­ly births are very com­mon in this pop­u­la­tion, and some young women par­ent mul­ti­ple chil­dren by age 21,” says Shpiegel, who was the project’s lead researcher. Keep­ing youth con­nect­ed to edu­ca­tion­al set­tings and pro­vid­ing ade­quate sup­ports to help them grad­u­ate may help pre­vent ear­ly births, as well as pro­vide bet­ter oppor­tu­ni­ties to young women who are already parenting.”

The research high­lights impor­tant oppor­tu­ni­ties for sys­tem lead­ers on which to take action, including:

  • lever­ag­ing recent fed­er­al stim­u­lus funds to expand the use of the Chafee edu­ca­tion and train­ing vouch­er program;
  • pri­or­i­tiz­ing preg­nan­cy pre­ven­tion efforts for fos­ter youth, such as pro­vid­ing com­pre­hen­sive, trau­ma-informed, sex­u­al and repro­duc­tive health programming;
  • keep­ing youth in care con­nect­ed to edu­ca­tion­al set­tings and pro­vid­ing ade­quate sup­port to help them grad­u­ate; and
  • encour­ag­ing young peo­ple to remain in fos­ter care for the max­i­mum time per­mit­ted by state leg­is­la­tion, as this has been shown to reduce ear­ly birth and improve their out­comes into young adulthood.

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