Giving birth at any age is normally a challenge to women, but it is a more difficult experience for teen mothers and more so for those girls in foster care. Research shows that in the developed world, the nation with the highest number of teen pregnancies is the US (Font et al., 2019). Statistics also indicate that one in every six girls in the country gives birth before attaining the age of 20 (Font et al., 2019). Studies have documented numerous negative outcomes for teenage mothers and their children, which include poor health, high poverty rates, low rates of educational achievement, and a high rate of youth delinquency (Font et al., 2019). Moreover, research has shown that these negative outcomes result from the situation that teenage mothers face as they struggle to bring up their children (Zárate-Alva & Sala-Roca, 2019). For example, teenage mothers are less likely to have achieved their high school diplomas and thus can hardly find employment. Most have to remain with their parents and families, and it is not always given that they will receive the financial and emotional support they desire.
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These outcomes tend to be worse for teenage girls with children living in foster homes because they have limited access to financial and emotional support compared to those living with their families. This group of teenage mothers is often not well studied, yet it is a significantly large and disadvantaged section of society. According to Font et al. (2019), there are more than 160,000 adolescent girls living in foster care in the country, mainly as a result of neglect and abuse in their homes. Teenage girls living in the foster care system in the United States are twice as likely to become pregnant before turning 19 as their counterparts living with their families. In addition, they are likely to become pregnant a second time before reaching the age of 19 (Font et al., 2019). Consequently, the first pregnancy before the age of 19 leads to an increase in the probability of having multiple pregnancies at a young age. In turn, it results in more financial and social problems for the girls and their children.
The US has many child welfare agencies that run programs designed to address the unique needs of teenage girls with children in foster care. Nevertheless, little has been done to work with young people to help them avoid early pregnancy. In addition, the existing programs do not fully provide the necessary financial, social, and emotional support that teenage mothers and their children require in their lives (Zárate-Alva & Sala-Roca, 2019). The foster care system cannot fully provide these needs as they are designed to support the young children temporarily or until they reach the age of employment and not when they enter parenthood (Font et al., 2019). There are various social programs that help teens delay pregnancy and support their children when they give birth. However, the care provided is often sporadic and disjointed because of such factors as high turnover rates of social workers and caseworkers, dynamism in living arrangements and supervision, and poor coordination among the involved agencies. Therefore, it is worth noting that the teenage mothers in foster care is a disadvantaged group that needs special focus both in research and provision of social welfare.
Social Work Practices Developed for Teenage Mothers in Foster Care
Understanding why teens get pregnant at such a young age despite having little or no ability for parenting requires a review of their situations and how they relate to their world. The social learning theory is based on Bandura’s idea that young people learn through a combination of observation, modeling, mediating, and imitating. Young people observe the behavior of others and model their actions based on what they observe and experience. Personal encounters with family, media, and the environment around a young person help build self-esteem. Social learning theory also assists in changing undesired behavior and preventing pivotal problems once they reach adulthood (Font et al., 2019). Social and caseworkers providing support to teenage mothers in foster care can convey what they feel is the appropriate way of incorporating their clients’ experiences and how friends and community influence them. This theory helps explain how caseworkers and others in foster care provide key components required when dealing with pregnant teens or those already parenting.
An approach based on the social learning theory can allow social workers to discuss their successful or unsuccessful attempts to influence or modify the attitudes, beliefs, and values that can potentially impact the behavior of the teens. Socioeconomic consequences of teenage pregnancy and other factors likely to influence their sexual behavior can be addressed based on the social learning theory (Shpiegel et al., 2017). The social learning theory is a potential and effective model that can assist care providers in achieving a better understanding of the effects of teen pregnancy and discovering other effective strategies for supporting them. Moreover, social learning theory can give the social workers an opportunity to expound on the positions and attitudes of teenage mothers in foster care (Font et al., 2019). Based on this theory, social workers will be observing the teenage mothers, imitating, modeling, and reinforcing the behavior and factors found in the community. Additionally, the social workers can utilize the social learning theory’s principles of behavior modification when they are observing the teenage mothers’ effects, thoughts, and behaviors.
After considering the social learning theory’s concept of behavior change, social workers should then turn to Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) as an effective approach and strategy for providing teenage mothers with the necessary support. By definition, evidence-based practice means a process of approach in which the practitioner makes use of a combination of well-research interventions with ethics, experience, culture, and client preferences to achieve the best possible outcomes (Shpiegel et al., 2017). Among the most effective evidence-based approaches applicable to providing social support to disadvantaged groups, such as teen parents, is the strength perspective (Shpiegel et al., 2017). The strength perspective focuses on the strengths of the client, given that strong points emerge in the midst of adversity. Although they are stigmatized, teenage mothers develop a new identity, especially that of a good, caring mother. They possess strengths as they are motivated to be good mothers, attain high levels of responsibility and ambition, and possess high expectations to have successful lives (Zárate-Alva & Sala-Roca, 2019). Therefore, social workers should apply the strengths perspective model to modify teenage mothers’ beliefs and motivate them to pursue their dreams in life.
The focus on strengths should include acknowledging that the teen mother values her education. After becoming pregnant or mothers, teenage girls are likely to express a renewed commitment to education and realize its importance to the future of their children (Shpiegel et al., 2017). Due to this renewed commitment, teenage girls who had dropped out of school prior to pregnancy or before giving birth are likely to return in search of academic success. Other studies have shown that the teens who return to school with a renewed commitment are likely to work hard and achieve high grades and economic stability after school (Shpiegel et al., 2017). Most of these girls overcome the challenges of early motherhood successfully, which helps them achieve their dreams. Consequently, the social workers providing care to teenage mothers in social care should focus on these strengths and help them to renew their commitments using behavior modification and modeling, as suggested in the social learning theory.
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The research on teenage mothers in foster care has provided essential knowledge about the importance of focusing on disadvantaged groups. First, the research made the student realize that the group is quite large, given the high rates of birth and pregnancy among teenage girls before reaching 19 in the US. Indeed, it was a surprise to learn that those in foster care have a high probability of becoming pregnant more than once compared to those living with their families. It was also noted that the problem of teenage pregnancy in foster care affects all communities, regardless of social, economic, ethnic, racial, and other backgrounds (Font et al., 2019). Moreover, the research demonstrated that this group is highly disadvantaged because the foster care system in the country is not designed to provide care for young parents.
Indeed, the foster care system in the country is designed to provide temporary homes and care for children before permanent solutions at home or elsewhere are found. Therefore, when teenage girls get pregnant and give birth while still under foster care, they become disadvantaged because the social, financial, and emotional support they need is limited (Shpiegel et al., 2017). In addition, they are likely to face stigmatization and rejection, which is likely to affect their emotional, mental, and social welfare.
I learned that social works need to apply the best practices based on evidence and established theoretical approaches to support care for teenage mothers in foster care. Bandura’s social learning theory has been found to be an important approach in this sense (Shpiegel et al., 2017). This approach helps care providers to focus on the modification of the teenage mothers’ behavior and beliefs. In the same way, the strengths perspective helps the social workers to focus on the strengths of the young mothers, especially by renewing their commitment to academic success and financial stability.
Prior to conducting this study, I assumed that all is well with teenage mothers in foster care. Indeed, there was no separation between the teenage mothers in foster care and those living with their families. In addition, the group was not considered a disadvantaged part of society. However, after the research, the student realized that the group is disadvantaged and needs social, emotional, and financial support. Consequently, this perspective will change the student’s view of certain social groups in the community. For instance, it has changed the student’s beliefs about the social diversification presence in the community, but not necessarily revealed in literature. Such groups as teenage parents need special attention because they also need to support their children. Their children should also be a special group because they are not likely to have a normal childhood in foster homes, given that their mothers are also disadvantaged.
Font, S. A., Cancian, M., & Berger, L. M. (2019). Prevalence and risk factors for early motherhood among low-income, maltreated, and foster youth. Demography, 56(1), 261-284. Web.
Shpiegel, S., Cascardi, M., & Dineen, M. (2017). A social ecology analysis of childbirth among females emancipating from foster care. Journal of Adolescent Health, 60(5), 563-569. Web.
Zárate-Alva, N. E., & Sala-Roca, J. (2019). Socio-emotional skills of girls and young mothers in foster care. Children and Youth Services Review, 100(C), 50-56. Web.