AUSTIN, Texas -- An advocacy group says teens in Texas foster care are five times more likely to become pregnant than other girls statewide.
Citing 2017 Texas Department of Family and Protective Services data, a 38-page report released Monday by Texans Care for Children says 332 foster care girls were pregnant last year, while 218 foster care youths were already parents.
Statistics from 2015 further show that, in a typical year, about one in 20 foster care girls ages 13 to 17 become pregnant, a rate of 5.7 percent, compared to 1.2 percent for girls statewide in that age group.
"They’ve already experienced so much trauma, they have so much hardship, they don’t have the kind of support around them that a lot of other kids have. The state really needs to step up its responsibility," said Senior Child Welfare Policy Associate Kate Murphy.
The nonprofit analyzed state and national data and said that they partly blame the teenagers’ adverse childhood experiences and instability.
"Some of these pregnancies are not unwanted, they’re desired. Kids in foster care often feel unloved, they’re missing a family and they want it and they’re hoping for it," Murphy said.
Researchers said early pregnancy can impact a teen's ability to finish her education and get a job. Girls in foster care are less likely to get timely access to prenatal care.
Dr. Celia Neavel is the director of the Center for Adolescent Health at the People’s Community Clinic. She provides care to low-income and underserved teens, including foster care youth.
"Their lives have been kind of chaotic and if they don’t have trusted adults they can talk to, if they’ve never learned what their rights are, in terms of accessing birth control or accessing STD treatment, then those are really crucial things that they need. If they’ve been abused or neglected they may not really feel that safely and security about their own body and we really want to help empower them about that," said Neavel.
Texans Care for Children outlined some recommendation including access to medical services and coaching parenting youth. They said based on surveys with providers, adults need more training on how to talk to youth about healthy relationships.
“Relationships are just absolutely vital and critical to helping kids make healthy decisions, helping them feel loved, helping them feel supported,” Murphy said. “That’s something that is missing unfortunately for a lot of kids in foster care.”
Texas Department of Family and Protective Services spokesperson Lisa Blocks said the agency is currently reviewing the report.
In a statement sent to Spectrum News, Block said:
“The health and well-being of our foster children are our priority. The Department of Family and Protective Services, caregivers, medical providers and Preparation for Adult Living providers work together to ensure that children in our care are educated and have access to the health care they need. We are continually evaluating and working to improve the programs provided to youth in our care.”