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Cumulative Teen Birth Rates Among Girls in Foster Care at Age 17: An Analysis of Linked Birth and Child Protection Records from California

NCJ Number
Child Abuse and Neglect Volume: 38 Issue: 4 Dated: April 2014 Pages: 698-705
Emily Putnam-Hornstein; Bryn King
Date Published
April 2014
8 pages
This California study linked foster care and birth records in providing a longitudinal, population-level examination of the incidence of first and repeat births among girls who were in foster care at age 17.
Of the 20,222 girls in foster care in California at age 17 between 2003 and 2007, 11.4 percent had a first birth before age 18. The cumulative percentage who gave birth before age 20 was 28.1 percent. Among girls who had a first birth before age 18, 41.2 percent had a repeat teen birth. Both Black and Latina girls had significantly heightened rates of first births compared to White girls in foster care. Girls placed in foster care because of physical or sexual abuse had lower first-birth rates before age 18, compared with girls placed in foster care because of neglect; yet rates were statistically equivalent when all births before age 20 were considered. Data analysis also showed a link between the number of foster care placement and rates of first birth. The highest birth rates were found among girls who had four or more placements during the observed foster care episode. Nearly half of the population fell in this group. Girls who had been in foster care for 60 months or longer (meaning they entered foster care at or before age 12) had significantly lower rates of first births. The data suggest, but without proof of causality, that children entering a new foster care episode during their teens may be particularly vulnerable for first births before age 18. Teens who exited foster care into adoption/guardianship had the lowest rates of first births. Implications are drawn for extending foster care beyond age 18. Suggestions are offered for further research in this area. 1 figure, 2 tables, and 34 references