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2000 Jordan Institute
for Families

Vol. 1, No. 1
Winter 1995

Preventing Pregnancy for Teens in Foster Care

With reunification issues to sort out, visitation and school plans to coordinate, and foster homes to support and monitor, working with children in care can be fairly complicated. Working with adolescents in care can be even more comples, especially when it comes to preventing pregnancy.

Society looks to the family to provide children with information about sex, and teens in foster care often find their families unable to provide guidance on sexual matters. This lack, coupled with the predisposing factors of abuse and neglect, may make teens in care more susceptible to becoming involved in early sexual activity and parenthood.

In Sex Education and Family Planning for Adolescents in Foster Care, researchers Polit, White, and Morton surveyed 48 states to determine what systems were in place to address sexuality for teenagers in foster care. The results of their survey were not encouraging. Only nine states had formal written policies on how family planning and related services were to be provided to child welfare clients. Five states mandated training on teen sexuality for foster parents, and only four required similar training for case workers.

Furthermore, when asked whose responsibility it was to talk to teens about sexually related issues, case workers believed it was the foster parents' responsibility, while foster parents looked to the agency to assume this role.

Many workers and foster parents were concerned about legal constraints regarding teen access to birth control and related information. Particularly when reunification is a goal, the responsibility of the birth parents was considered unclear. North Carolina law says that teenagers can consent without parental permission for medical treatment related to pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases, mental health, or substance abuse (N.C. General Statute 9-21.5). Therefore, it would appear that family planning services can be accessed easily and without legal constraints.

The article described above was published in 1987. Perhaps new ways of dealing with this issue exist that are not documented in the literature. Practice Notes will keep you updated if we learn of progress in this area.


Polit, D. F., White, C. M., & Morton, T. D. (1987). Sex education and family planning for adolescents in foster care. Family Planning Perspectives, 19(1), 18-22.

1995 Jordan Institute for Families