Entering and navigating the child welfare system can be stressful and confusing for young people separated from their families. It can be even more challenging for young people who are parents, are pregnant, or are expecting. Expectant and parenting youth have unique needs related to their physical, emotional, social, and financial health that require specialized support. Child welfare professionals must be well equipped to help expectant and parenting youth in care meet those needs and support them as they transition to adulthood and/or parenthood.
Lived experience leaders from FosterClub who have expertise as expecting or parenting youth in care worked in close partnership with Child Welfare Information Gateway to develop this bulletin. The experiences, insights, and advice of these young people shaped the content of this publication. When quoted, they are identified according to their preference—by name, State, or anonymous.
WORKING WITH EXPECTANT AND PARENTING YOUTH
When working with expectant and parenting youth, caseworkers should practice meaningful youth engagement. Youth engagement occurs when caseworkers holistically partner with young people throughout their case planning and encourage them to lead discussions about their futures. It is crucial that caseworkers approach youth engagement with an attitude that values young people’s active participation and inclusion. That means building relationships with youth, listening to them, and treating them as equals. To authentically engage expectant and parenting youth, caseworkers must empower youth to make their own choices and choose what goals they want to work toward as they navigate a pregnancy and/or raise a child. More information about youth engagement is available in Information Gateway’s Prioritizing Youth Voice: The Importance of Authentic Youth Engagement in Case Planning.
CASEWORK STRATEGIES FOR IMPROVING SERVICES
This section provides strategies to help caseworkers provide personalized, informed support for youth and young adults, including information about planning and preparation, accessing and connecting to resources, and developing support networks.
PLANNING AND PREPARATION
Pregnancies come with many unknowns and uncertainties, especially for first-time parents and even more so for teens or young adults. When a first-time parent learns they are expecting, they might not know what a pregnancy and/or birth entails. They might not know about infant stages or child development. Young expecting parents also may feel uncertain about their future in and out of care. Establishing plans and helping young people prepare for these unknowns may help ease anxieties and set them up for success. There are various types of plans that can benefit young people: planning during pregnancy, parenting education/preparation, general case planning, and transition planning.