Abstract: Disparate Experiences of Expectant and Parenting Youth with Lived Experience in Foster Care (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Disparate Experiences of Expectant and Parenting Youth with Lived Experience in Foster Care

Saturday, January 14, 2023
Ahwatukee A, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Nadine Finigan-Carr, PhD, Director, Prevention of Adolescent Risks Initiative (PARI), University of Maryland at Baltimore, MD
Monica Faulkner, PHD, Director, Texas Institute for Child & Family Wellbeing, Austin, TX
Background and Purpose: Research has documented that youth with lived experience in foster care, particularly youth of color, have increased odds of becoming a young parent. While research has focused on demographics of young parents in foster care, there is little understanding of how youth actually receive sexual health information and healthcare and how young parents are treated in foster care. In this study, we compare the experiences of youth of color and White youth to understand these disparate experiences and identify areas for improvement.

Methods: The Expectant and Parenting Youth Survey explored the practices and policies that impact youth in foster care who are pregnant or parenting. The survey was conducted online in April 2021. It was advertised via social media and listservs to former foster youth and youth in extended foster care who were over the age of 18. A total of 160 youth completed the survey which asked 43 questions about their rights and privacy, sex education, healthcare, case planning involvement, pregnancy options, birthing options and supports for young parents. The survey questions were designed to ask youth generally about what they had observed in foster care rather than their own personal experiences. Youth answered on a 5-point Likert scale about how frequently things happened in foster care. For the analysis, variables were recoded as dichotomous variables indicating something sometimes or always happened vs. not often or never happened. Youth who identified as Black, Latinx or multiracial were grouped together as youth of color (n=78) and were compared to White youth (n=82) using chi-square tests.

Results: In comparing White youth and youth of color, there were no significant demographic differences except that youth of color were more likely to report being parents (Χ2=12.658, p=0.002). Overall, there were few disparities in what youth of color and white youth reported. Out of the 43 items, 9 were significantly different. Only 26% of youth of color reported that pregnant youth are respected no matter what choice they make about their pregnancy compared to 50% of White youth (Χ2=10.146, p=0.001). 21% of youth of color reported that young moms are asked about depression versus 42% of White youth (Χ2=8.662, p=0.003). In terms of how young parents in care are treated, 40% of youth of color reported that parents have legal cases opened against them compared to 19% of White youth (Χ2=8.405, p=0.003). Finally, 34% of youth of color reported that young parents have access to public benefits like WIC and TANF compared to 50% of White youth (Χ2=4.128, p=0.030).

Conclusions and Implications: While these findings are limited due to the non-random sample, patterns do offer insight into disparate treatment of youth in foster care. In particular, the treatment of young parents in care is reported by youth of color to be worse in terms of how youth are treated and what resources are available to them.