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Sept. 27, 2021

What Happens to Pregnant Teens in Foster Care?

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Thousands of teens find themselves in the foster care system after enduring some sort of trauma. Teen girls in or from unstable homes or communities are more likely to experience teen pregnancy. Inevitably, there are pregnant teens in foster care. But what happens to them and their babies in the system?

Teens in Foster Care are Twice as Likely to Become Pregnant as Their Peers

Teen mothers in foster care are 11x more likely to lose custody of their baby in the first week of life than other teen moms.

Keeping teen mothers and their babies together in foster care is a unique challenge. Teens must be placed in a home that agrees to house and support the baby.

If there is not a foster home willing and able to take in the mother and child together, they are separated and placed in different foster homes. Leaving the new mother without the chance to ever parent their baby.

The Challenges of Separating a New Born From Their Mother

Separating a child from its mother, especially in the first few days of life disrupts the mother-child attachment. Sadly, this will impact both the baby and mother for the rest of their lives. Separating a foster teen from her newborn baby creates additional trauma. The experience can lead to the teen developing mental health issues or turning to substance abuse.

Becoming a teen mother is already incredibly hard, being a teen mother in the foster care system is even more complicated.

“I don’t think that we can overlook the possibility that the many other challenges faced by young adults aging out of foster care (homelessness, poverty, unemployment, and limited educational opportunities) contribute to both parenting stress and to characteristics that may increase the likelihood of (losing custody of babies.),” -Dr. Kristine Campbell, author, and researcher at the Primary Children’s Hospital Center for Safe and Healthy Families in Salt Lake City, Utah.

So What Happens to Pregnant Teens in Foster Care?

The answer: It depends.

It depends on the choices of the pregnant mother, the willingness of a foster home to take in a pregnant teen as a placement, the ability for the teen mother to care for the child, and the ability to find a foster home that is willing and able to take in the mother and child as a pair.

Just because a young mother is in foster care does not mean that they are unfit to care for their baby. In fact, fostering teen mothers value being able to finally call someone’s family again.

“I certainly see young mothers with a history of foster care who dedicate every fiber of their being to keeping their children from repeating the experiences of their childhood,” Campbell.

The sad reality is that oftentimes there are not enough resources to care for teens and their babies together. One way you can help is by supporting foster children in general. To learn how check out our link at

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