Children of Young Parents in Care at Higher Risk of Child Welfare Involvement

Youth in foster care have high rates of early parenthood and face many personal and parenting challenges. This study looks at the risk of child welfare involvement for the children of foster children. An analysis of child welfare administrative data found high rates of child maltreatment investigations and out-of-home care placements among children born to young parents in foster care.

What we did

Our analysis used data from the Teen Parenting Service Network (TPSN), a network of providers that serves pregnant and parenting youth in foster care throughout Illinois, and the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS). We measured child maltreatment investigations, indicated reports, and out-of-home care placements from birth to age five among 2,487 children born to youth in foster care between 2000 and 2008. We also estimated Cox proportional hazard models to identify demographic and placement history characteristics associated with the risk of child welfare services involvement.

What we found

Before their fifth birthday:

  • 39% of the children were the subject of at least one CPS investigation
  • 17% of the children had at least one indicated child maltreatment report
  • 11% of the children were placed in out-of-home care.

The vast majority of investigations and indicated reports involved child neglect.

The risk of child welfare services involvement was higher for children whose:

  • Parents were still in foster care
  • Parents were younger when they were born
  • Mothers (rather than fathers) were in foster care
  • Parents had a history of placement instability
  • Parents had been in foster care for a shorter rather than longer period of time

What it means

Children born to youth in foster care have higher rates of child welfare services involvement than the children of adolescent parents in the general population. One way to reduce the rate of child welfare services involvement among the children of youth in foster care is to help young people in foster care delay becoming parents.

Another is for child welfare agencies to ensure that young parents in foster care have access to the services and supports they need. This could include linking pregnant and parenting youth in foster care to evidence-based home visiting programs.

Recommended Citation
Dworsky, A. (2014). Child welfare services involvement among the children of young parents in foster care. Chicago, IL: Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago.
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