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Teens in MN Foster Care Twice As Likely to Get Pregnant

PHOTO: An analysis by the state and Teenwise Minnesota has found that girls in foster care are twice as likely to get pregnant as teens than though who have never been out of home. CREDIT: ultrasound-images.com.
PHOTO: An analysis by the state and Teenwise Minnesota has found that girls in foster care are twice as likely to get pregnant as teens than though who have never been out of home. CREDIT: ultrasound-images.com.
December 4, 2012

BEMIDJI, Minn. - Minnesota girls in foster care are more than twice as likely to become pregnant as teenagers as girls who have never been in the foster-care system.

Jill Farris, director of training and education at Teenwise Minnesota, says there are a variety of factors for the higher risk, such as not having the influence of a consistent adult role model.

"When young people are in the foster-care system, many times they don't have a caring and consistent adult in their lives to talk with them, to care for them, to be there for them."

Farris says addressing the issue of pregnancy among teens in foster care is even more critical for girls of color, since they already have greater odds of being in the system.

"Children that are American Indian are about 14 times more likely than a white child to be placed out of home, and for African American youth that's about four times higher, and children of two or more races it's three times higher. So we have a hugely disparate rate."

Farris says they're working a number of strategies to reduce the numbers. One is to encourage and bring, when possible, the foster and birth parents into the conversation together with hopes that long-term caring adults will emerge.

Another focus is a national curriculum that's being tried out as a pilot project in five states, including Minnesota. One of the first places to implement the teachings is Evergreen Youth and Family Services of Bemidji, which sits at the center of three reservations.

Cole Antonovich, Evergreen's independent-living skills case manager, says they work specifically with youth out of home, many of whom are girls.

"And being up here, we do realize that our county is one of the highest in the state for teen pregnancies. So we offer other classes, such as a parenting class, for example. We get a lot of volunteers from the county or just from the community in general who will come and talk about everything from health to behavioral issues, food questions and all that kind of stuff."

The other program now implementing the Making Proud Choices curriculum is FamilyWise in Minneapolis.

As of 2010, more than 11,000 children in Minnesota spent some time in out-of-home care.

More information is at bit.ly/TwORkk.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN