Academic journal article Child Welfare

Power through Choices: The Development of a Sexuality Education Curriculum for Youths in Out-of-Home Care

Academic journal article Child Welfare

Power through Choices: The Development of a Sexuality Education Curriculum for Youths in Out-of-Home Care

Article excerpt

Youths in out-of-home care demonstrate high rates of sexual risk-taking behavior and elevated rates of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). This article profiles the development and characteristics of an innovative pregnancy/HIV/STI prevention curriculum tailored to the needs of youths in out-of-home care. Promising results from an implementation study suggest the need for further dissemination and rigorous testing.

More than 500,000 children reside in group homes, family foster homes, kinship foster care, or residential care in the United States [Maza 1996]. Due to the nature of out-of-home care and the events precipitating placement, youths in out-of-home care may change schools frequently and have substantial lapses in school attendance, thereby missing much of the sexuality education delivered in traditional schools. Youths in outof-home care are, therefore, less likely to have had access to sex education and family planning classes, and often have less knowledge of the consequences of early pregnancy [Polit et al. 1989]. These youths are typically at elevated risk for teen pregnancy, HIV infection, and other STIs, often engaging in high-risk sexual activities, including unprotected sex with multiple partners. This is shown in high birthrates for females during and following outof-home care. Cook [1994] found that 60% of the young women who had aged out of care had given birth to at least one child in the subsequent four years. This was far higher than the 24% rate for the general population. Needell, Armijo, and Barth [1996] matched faster care records and birth records and found that 5.2% of females in care in 1994 gave birth in care or within eight months after leaving care; among youths in the general population, the rate was 3.8%.

In a study of sexual activity and contraceptive use among children entering out-of-home care, youths as young as age 8 reported having engaged in sexual activity; 34% of youths age 8 to 18 reported being sexually active [Risley-Curtiss 1997]. Of those youths who self-reported sexual activity, more than one-third were not using contraceptives. Among youths age 13 to 18, more than 64% reported being sexually active. Of this subset, more than one-third of the sexually active youths were not using contraceptives and 15.2% reported a history of STIs. One crucial finding of the Risley-Curtiss study was the presence of serious mental health problems among those youths who reported sexual activity, particularly among those who were not using contraception. Over 70% of those youths who reported being sexually active demonstrated a history of behavior problems and current emotional or behavioral difficulties, including drug (14.9%) and alcohol (21.5%) use, and homicidal (15%) or suicidal (24.6%) ideation.

Adolescent females in out-of-home care are generally less knowledgeable about reproduction, contraception, and sexually transmitted infections than their peers not in care, and are twice as likely to get pregnant; the outcomes for them and their children are also usually worse [Allen et al.1987]. The high teen pregnancy and STI rates among this population are associated with abuse, neglect, poverty, and other social factors that also tend to precipitate placement. Emotional problems, substandard education, and sexual abuse (conditions that generally foreshadow the possibility of teen pregnancy), are often exacerbated in out-ofhome care situations or in the homes from which youths in outof-home care have been removed (Brindis & Jeremy 1988].

An early examination of the relationship between out-of-home care and adolescent pregnancy involved 55 youths (mostly between the ages of 19 and 24) who had exited the child welfare system; the study sought to identify factors that influence outcomes for youths in out-of-home care [Barth 1990]. More than 40% of the respondents reported an unplanned pregnancy, impregnating a partner, contracting an STI, or being sexually active and never or rarely using protection. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.