Close Monitoring May Help Troubled Teen Girls Avoid Pregnancy
June 18 -- WEDNESDAY, June 17 (HealthDay News) -- Placing teenage girls with a history of juvenile delinquency in specialized foster-care programs had an unexpected consequence: It kept them from getting pregnant, researchers found.
Researchers directed 166 girls aged 13 to 17 who were ordered by the courts to receive treatment for criminal behavior to either specialized foster care or a group-care facility.
The specialized programs, called Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care (MTFC), were developed in the 1980s to provide severely delinquent youths one-on-one care and supervision from foster parents trained in behavior management.
Techniques include awarding points for positive behavior (completing chores, attending school regularly) and losing points for negative behaviors, such as not completing homework, according to the non-profit Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy.
One of the keys of MTFC is limiting contact with other troubled teens. In contrast, children in group homes are housed with delinquent youths.
After two years, 26 percent of the girls in foster care became pregnant, compared to almost 47 percent of teens in group care, according to the study reported in the June issue of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.
Girls in the foster-care program also had reduced levels of criminal activity and arrests and increases in school engagement.
The results were dramatic, said study author David Kerr, an assistant professor in the department of psychology at Oregon State University.
Teen pregnancy rates fell for much of the last decade before ticking up again the last two years. The United States still has one of the highest rates compared to other industrialized nations.
Girls in conventional foster care are particularly at risk. One survey of teens in three states found that nearly half of girls in the foster system reported a pregnancy by age 19, Kerr said.
In MTFC, teens are highly supervised by foster-care parents, who are provided with ongoing consultation, support and crisis intervention services from program supervisors.
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