Abstract: Aged-out Pregnant and Parenting Teens Speak out about Academic Engagement and Performance - a Retrospective Study (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

13P Aged-out Pregnant and Parenting Teens Speak out about Academic Engagement and Performance - a Retrospective Study

Thursday, January 17, 2019
Continental Parlors 1-3, Ballroom Level (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Serena K. Ohene, DSW, Dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA

Background and Purpose: Studies have shown that children in foster care face many academic problems and lag far behind academically than their peers not in care. Pregnant and parenting teens (PPTs) in foster care face even more academic hurdles due to the added responsibility. While not empirically supported, the core tenets of attachment, identity, self-efficacy, and critical race perspectives may collectively explain academic challenges PPTs tend to experience.

This study, therefore, sought to better understand PPTs perspectives on the extent to which these theories explain why and how school disengagement remains to be an issue of concern. Therefore, the aims of the study were: (1) To rely upon the experiences and narratives of PPTs who aged out of foster care to shed light on factors that impact their school engagement and educational outcomes; and (2) To determine to what extent theories of attachment, identity, self-efficacy, and critical race perspectives provide insight into barriers to and facilitators of school engagement and positive educational outcomes for PPTs.

Methods: Eleven aged-out PPTs, with an average age of 23.9 years, who were formerly placed in foster care participated in one-to-one semi-structured interviews. Interviews lasted on average of 45 minutes. Hispanic or Latin Americans represented over half (n=6) of the sample, while the remaining identified as African American (n=2); mixed races of White / African American (n=2); or mixed races of African American / Hispanic-Latino (n=1). Grounded Theory was used to generate themes and categories.

Findings: Numerous categories emerged within four principal themes linked to PPTs engagement in school and educational outcomes. Theme 1, “System Response”, elucidated PPTs perceptions of their experiences while pregnant or parenting in care. Categories that emerged were negative and positive perceptions of foster caregiving, and experiences of racial/ethnic discrimination. Theme 2, “Impact of System Response”, illuminated feelings of loneliness, rejection, not belonging in most circumstances, and as well as positive feelings of belongingness in other cases, all of which impacted their attachment connections. Experiences of stigma and oppression in foster care impacted PPTs identity development, while feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy impacted their self-efficacy, or intrinsic belief that they can succeed in school. PPTs further cited internalizing these negative messages and experiences. Theme 3, “Educational Outcomes”, revealed the influence of System Response on PPTs school engagement. Theme 4, “Lessons Learned” explicates values and lessons derived from PPTs experiences.

Conclusion and Implications: Ongoing foster parent and child welfare staff trainings on attachment, self-efficacy, identity, and critical race theories are necessary for facilitating ongoing dialogues towards the understanding and implications of these frameworks in fostering meaningful relationships with PPTs towards positive academic outcomes. Results underscore the need to implement PPT support groups, as they are likely to be quintessential to providing emotional healing among PPTs. Inviting PPTs to their program development meetings and respecting their ideas and input in developing interventions is warranted.