Teenagers are interested in sex. Not only are they interested, but many of them are having sex. Some of them become parents as a result; in fact, seventy-one percent of young women in foster care will be pregnant before the age of twenty-one, many of them more than once.
Yet, according to a recent article by Ryann Blackshere of Fostering Media Connections, adults who are responsible for caring for foster youth appear to treat information about sex as something to be kept secret. At least, it’s not clear who, if anyone, is responsible for talking to foster youth about sex and pregnancy prevention.
Although sex education has become a routine part of the curriculum in many school systems, it is parents who are ultimately responsible for ensuring that their children are knowledgeable about sexual relationships. We want all teenagers and young adults to appreciate the importance of sexual behavior that is not only physically safe, but emotionally safe as well.
Photo courtesy of”Pushthisbutton”
Unfortunately, when the parent is not available it is not clear who holds the responsibility for teaching children about their bodies — including the care they need and the pleasures they offer. Unless someone is clearly designated to address these issues, it is too easy for adults to avoid conversations they may find anxiety-provoking or embarrassing.
Parents may take it upon themselves to learn about the best ways to talk to their children about sex. Teachers who are responsible for sex education have access to training and resources. If no one in the foster care community clearly has responsibility, then it is also unclear who should be trained in best practices.
And best practices are essential when it comes to teaching responsible sexual behavior in the foster care community. Given that parents who have grown up in the foster care system are five times more likely than their peers to lose their children to foster care, the prevention of premature pregnancy should be a top priority. Not only are these young parents vulnerable to losing their children to foster care, they are in danger of losing their adolescence to premature parenthood.
By Toni Heineman