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April 19, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

In Texas, girls in foster care are over five times as likely to become pregnant as are other girls (Texas Tribune, 4/16/18). To anyone with a clue about teen pregnancy, that’s news, but no surprise. Girls in foster care have probably been abused or neglected at home and traumatized by the process of being taken from their parents and placed in foster care. Those multiple traumas are associated with a range of dysfunctional behavior by both sexes, so it’s no surprise that teen pregnancy is among them.

Predictably, the Tribune hasn’t a clue. It’s a sure sign that a writer doesn’t know her subject when she asserts a particular claim and then backs it up with a quotation that, well, doesn’t back it up. So the Tribune writer Sydney Greene, asserts

[A pregnant girl in foster care] said her foster sisters, especially the ones who had their children taken away, struggled with the complexities of becoming parents, being in foster care and carrying the weight of sexual and abusive trauma — all before reaching adulthood.

Note that the writer assumes that the girls have been both sexually and physically traumatized. She offers only their presence in foster care as evidence, but of course most kids in care weren’t physically abused, but neglected. She compounds that error by quoting the girl thus:

“They were depressed a lot because they didn’t have their child with them,” [the girl] recalled. “They were emotionally wounded from that.”

Yes, I can imagine. Many girls from poor homes become pregnant as a way of giving their lives meaning. From where I stand, it’s not the smartest way to do that, but they do it anyway. So an area that’s ripe for exploration in this article would be how the girls come to give up their children to the foster care system. What role does the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services play in encouraging/coercing the girls to give up their children? After all, if the writer is really interested in these girls, you’d think she’d pay attention to what they say about their situation. Greene couldn’t care less.

What else escaped her notice? A lot. Principally, it never occurred to her to inquire about the girls’ fathers. Did they have one actively engaged in their lives? If not, why not? The data on fatherlessness is clear that there’s a high correlation between teen pregnancy and father absence. That correlation holds across most, if not all, cultures. But again, the Tribune had no interest in that most pertinent of all issues.

What’s the role of foster care in a girl becoming pregnant while in her teens? What part does fatherlessness play. Those are interesting concepts to most people; too bad the Tribune writer isn’t one of them.

Indeed, her article moves on to list boilerplate approaches to teen pregnancy in foster care that no serious person believes address the problem. So, according to the article, the girls need sex education, learning about healthy relationships and access to health care. Fine. I promise you, those will not solve the problem or even come close. Meanwhile the Tribune relies on typical bureaucratic gloss to cover an issue it hasn’t begun to truly illuminate.

"The Department of Family and Protective Services, caregivers, medical providers and Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) providers work together to ensure that children in our care are educated and have access to the healthcare they need," Department of Family and Protective Services spokesperson Lisa Block said in an emailed statement. "We are continually evaluating and working to improve the programs provided to youth in our care."

Could anything be more anodyne? Anyone the least bit familiar with the Texas system of foster care knows the statement is so much bunk. The Texas foster care system is a mess and has been for years, with foster parents barely vetted by the state and children being abused as a matter of course and sometimes dying. Does the Tribune writer even know that a federal judge wrote an opinion in 2016 saying that children typically exit that system in worse shape than when they entered? I suppose not.

As empty as the article is, it at least quotes the previously mentioned girl again, although now she’s 26.

“The situation calls for the mother to receive additional health [care] to get her to a place to be able take care of her children,” [she] said. “I think that the children should be with their mothers.”

And that of course is what the Department will never allow, regardless of its effect on the mothers or their children. But again, the Tribune isn’t interested.

 

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#fostercare, #teenpregnancy, #Texas

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