Data Matters: New Opportunity to Focus on Pregnant and Parenting Youth in Foster Care

In recent years there has been growing attention to the challenge of pregnancy and parenting among youth in and transitioning from foster care. As a reminder that data does matter, this interest has been driven in large part by data from several studies showing that youth involved in foster care experience disproportionately high levels of pregnancy.  

The Midwest Study found that nearly half of young women in foster care had been pregnant by age 19, which is more than twice as high as the rate for youth not in care. The California Youth Transitions to Adulthood Study found similarly high levels of pregnancy. As the names imply, these studies, and a few others, focus on specific states or localities (the Midwest study covers Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin).   

When the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy convened over 100 experts in 2015 to discuss ways to address teen pregnancy prevention among youth in foster care, one of the recommendations that emerged was to use data to inform local and state policy and practice. 

However, until now, there has not been consistent data from all states about the level of pregnancy and parenting among the youth in their care. To help ameliorate this data gap, the bipartisan Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act passed in 2014 included a new requirement for states to report data on the number of pregnant and parenting youth in out of home care. 

After a proposed rule and public comment, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a Final Rule in December 2016 detailing this new requirement.  This is part of a comprehensive update to the data collection and reporting requirements for state, territorial, and tribal child welfare agencies. When fully implemented, all states will know for the first time the number of youth who are pregnant or parenting, as well as the number of young parents in care whose children are placed with them.  This will help inform policy and practice, both to improve prevention efforts and to support those youths who are already parents.  Recognizing that data collection is complex and takes time to do well, HHS has given states two years to implement the new requirements. 

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy has been at the forefront of efforts to address the unique needs of youth in care, working in partnership with state and local child welfare agencies, judges, national organizations, researchers, and foundations.  And, as an evidence-based organization, we have long supported these data collection efforts.   We now encourage the federal government and states to commit to work together to fully implement these important new requirements.  Doing so will support policymakers, practitioners, and advocates to continue crafting solutions that help some of our nation’s most vulnerable young people to thrive. 

Authored by: Andrea Kane

Andrea Kane is the Vice President for Policy and Strategic Partnerships at The National Campaign.  She is responsible for The National Campaign’s public policy program, as well as forging strategic partnerships with a range of public and private sector organizations.  During her time at the Campaign, she has helped launch The National Campaign’s work with community colleges, youth in foster care, and with Latino communities.

From 2001 through 2008, she was also affiliated with the Brookings Institution’s Center on Children and Families in various capacities. Before joining The National Campaign in 2001, Andrea served at the White House Domestic Policy Council as a special assistant to President Clinton. She has also worked at the National Governors’ Association, and at the state and local level in California, Texas, and Virginia.

She studied Government at Smith College, received a BA from Cornell University and an MPA from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas.

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