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Pregnancy and Parenting Among Youth Transitioning from Foster Care: A Mixed Methods Study
Child Youth Care Forum
  • Heather L. Rouse, Iowa State University
  • Tera R. Hurt, Iowa State University
  • Janet N. Melby, Iowa State University
  • Maya Bartel, Iowa State University
  • Bethany McCurdy, Iowa State University
  • Emily McKnight, Iowa State University
  • Feng Zhao, Iowa State University
  • Carl F. Weems, Iowa State University
  • Carol Behrer, Youth Policy Institute of Iowa
Document Type
Publication Version
Accepted Manuscript
Publication Date

Background: Over 400,000 children and youth are in foster care at any given time in the United States, with nearly one-third exiting care between ages 13 and 20. Pregnancy among women in this population is nearly double national averages, with one-third becoming pregnant by age 17 and nearly half of those experiencing repeat pregnancies by age 19. Research is needed about the sources of formal and informal information and support foster care youth receive about pregnancy and parenting, their access to and use of contraception, and the involvement of fathers/non-custodial parents in raising children.

Objective: The purpose of the current study was to better understand the experiences of foster care youth to inform policy and practice recommendations that address the high rate of unintended pregnancies and early parenting among youth transitioning from foster care.

Methods: This is a secondary analysis of data from a mixed-method study with a concurrent explanatory design including survey and focus group data. Complete survey responses included 81 participants (female n = 61; male n = 20) between the ages of 18–25, and 9 females took part in two focus groups.

Results: Sexual experiences were common for foster care youth and they reported few educational opportunities and supportive relationships. Themes that emerged from the focus group discussions centered on socialization about reproduction, social support, and parenting.

Conclusions: Access to educational opportunities and supportive personal relationships were lower than what would be expected from national estimates of non-foster care youth. Findings from both the survey and focus group data suggest enhancing programs for foster care youth with a specific focus on education and support for reproductive health, pregnancy, and parenting.


This accepted article is published as Rouse, H.L., Hurt, T.R., Melby, J.N. et al. Pregnancy and Parenting Among Youth Transitioning from Foster Care: A Mixed Methods Study. Child Youth Care Forum (2020). Doi: 10.1007/s10566-020-09567-0. Posted with permission.

Copyright Owner
Springer Nature Switzerland AG
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Citation Information
Heather L. Rouse, Tera R. Hurt, Janet N. Melby, Maya Bartel, et al.. "Pregnancy and Parenting Among Youth Transitioning from Foster Care: A Mixed Methods Study" Child Youth Care Forum (2020)
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