Intervention Program Also Effective In Curbing Teen Pregnancy Rates

David Goodhue

June 2, 2009 / AHN

A program aimed at preventing criminal behavior in at-risk teenage girls has yielded an unexpected, positive side effect - it also reduces the teens' pregnancy rates, according to a new study.

The study, conducted by Oregon State University researchers, involved girls ages 13 to 17 with histories of criminal behavior who had been court-mandated to receive out-of-home treatment. The girls were randomly assigned to either receive a program known as the Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care, which involves individual care in the homes of trained foster parents, or the services they would have received if they didn't participate in the study.

David Kerr, an assistant professor of psychology at Oregon State, said the results were significant. More than 45 percent of the girls in group care became pregnant, compared to 26 percent of the girls in one-on-one care.

"One of the most interesting aspects of this research is that the MTFC program was created to reduce crime, not pregnancy," Kerr said in a statement. "It specifically targeted changing the girl's environment: her home, her peers and her school experience. The focus was on giving her lots of supervision, support for responsible behavior, and consistent, non-harsh consequences for negative behavior. And this worked to reduce pregnancy rates."

Kerr said that pregnancy rates in the United States are particularly high compared with other industrialized nations, and rates are even higher for girls in the foster care system.

The study is published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.  [ http://psycnet.apa.org/index.cfm?fa=browsePA.volumes&jcode=ccp ]

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"one-on-one care"

"It specifically targeted changing the girl's environment: her home, her peers and her school experience. The focus was on giving her lots of supervision, support for responsible behavior, and consistent, non-harsh consequences for negative behavior. And this worked to reduce pregnancy rates."

I don't think many would argue that quality parenting is needed, especially for those children taken away from profoundly negligent and abusive family members.  I simply don't see how this high-quality care can be given to children placed in foster homes that have as many as 5, 10, 15, even 20 children living under one roof.  [No one can convince me people like Judith Leekin go into Foster Care/Adoption because they love taking care of "special-needs" children!] 

Just the other day, I read a short piece, "Adoption cannot be relied upon to save traumatised children"

Children can recover from early trauma, but only if they receive skilled care. They do not just need families, they need therapeutic families who have the knowledge and skill to enable the children to recover. And these families must also work as part of a professional team around the child, a team that recognises and addresses the injuries the child has suffered.

Not enough investment

These are children for whom the state must accept responsibility. What is wrong with our current system is not that it is expensive. Of course there is a cost to ensuring the recovery of our most injured children - and remember that this is just 0.5% of the child population we are discussing. What is wrong is that we do not yet invest enough in these children.

There is growing evidence in this country and around the world that skilled care over a long period can enable children to recover from early trauma. Akamas can prove, for example, that specialist training for carers, teachers and those who supervise and support them, changes the way children are treated, and this changes the outcomes for the children. Adoption, which transfers all legal responsibility for the child away from the state, can never be guaranteed to provide this level of knowledge and skill.

While I do not dispute the fact that there ARE amazing adults doing amazing things with and for children, I cannot ignore the fact that many get involved in foster care/adoption not because they want to help children who are really hurting, but because they want something for themselves... whether that be a human play-thing or a source of income.  In addition, I cannot ignore the various ways foster/adoptive parents are being persuaded to treat their already traumatized children.   [See the various of abuses associated with Attachment Therapy.] 

I strongly believe it's the agency (private or state funded) that decides the fate of so many children, and for the life of me, I just can't understand why so many are NOT doing the job they are paid to do.... protect children from further harm.

Pound Pup Legacy