Methods: This research was conducted as part of a needs assessment for a pregnancy assistance program in an urban county within a Southwestern state. The purposeful sample was comprised of system-involved pregnant and parenting youth/young adults, and service providers. Data collection included five face-to-face interviews with service providers and four interviews with pregnant and parenting youth/young adults ages 12-24. We also conducted focus groups with service providers (n=23) and with pregnant and parenting youth/young adults (n=7). Semi-structured interviews addressed strengths of workers, agencies and service networks in delivering pregnant and parenting services (e.g., “What are the strengths of [County name] in delivering services that are helpful to system-involved expectant and parenting young people?”). Providers were predominately female (75%) and white (60.71%). Most youth and young adult respondents were female (72.70%), and 27.3% identified as Latina/o, 27.3% as white, and 27.3% as mixed race; their mean age was 19.6 years. Interviews and focus groups were audio-recorded, then transcribed and analyzed using open and axial coding until themes emerged.
Results: Themes emerged in three categories: individual worker capacities, agency capacities, and service network capacities. Worker-related capacities were empathy and trustworthiness, well-informed navigation, and youth-centeredness. Agency capacities included representative diversity and inclusivity, trauma-informed training and practice, and availability of tangible supports such as childcare and transportation. Network system capacities included variety of service providers, systems integration, and co-location.
Conclusions and Implications: In light of FFSPA, service systems may implement new interventions addressing the disproportionate rate of pregnancy among system-involved youth in foster care. Our findings suggest that emerging programs may be more likely to be used when: workers display interpersonal empathy, are knowledgeable about available services, and validate youth/young adults experiences; agencies recruit a workforce representative of the diversity of their clients, provide trauma-informed care, and offer tangible supports; and service networks coordinate services and consider co-locating programs. More research is warranted on designing and implementing pregnant and parenting services and whether increased service use leads to better outcomes for youth/young adults with foster care histories.