Expectant & Parenting Youth in Foster Care

Transforming systems to change standards of care


What We Work For

We work to unite the child welfare system with other intervening public systems and community-based organizations to transform standards of care for young families.

Adolescent parents face multiple obstacles balancing their own transition to adulthood with raising a child. For young people in the foster care system and those who have recently “aged out” of care, the challenges are even greater and the resources available to help are frequently scarce.

How We Do It

The Expectant and Parenting Youth  in Foster Care (EPY) project supports child welfare systems in building multi-generational strategies that meet the developmental needs of both young parents and their children. We help systems create opportunities through which these young families can succeed and thrive.

We work to change the dominant negative narrative of young parents in foster care and highlights racial inequities and the racism, implicit bias, and discrimination that result in the overrepresentation of youth of color within child welfare.

EPY supports child welfare systems in changing policies and practices through technical assistance and training, facilitating cross-national workgroups of experts in the field, advocating for national and statewide policies that reflect the research of what EPY and their children need to thrive, promoting multi-systemic and community partnerships, and mobilizing expectant and parenting youth in care to become advocates for and voices about the work.

Our goal is to transform the child welfare system so that expectant and parenting youth in foster care, their children, and their families are supported to heal, succeed, and thrive.

Expectant and Parenting Youth in Foster Care

We work with child welfare systems to best support young parents and their children and to create opportunities through which these young families can succeed and thrive.

We employ:

A multi-generational approach. Policies and practices are responsive to three generations including the adolescent parents, their young children and the other adults who care for and support them.

Tools that are developmentally driven. Policies and practices are informed by principles of healthy adolescent brain development, and early childhood development.

Tools that are trauma-informed. Policies and practices recognize the impact of trauma on development and incorporate strategies for screening, addressing trauma symptoms and supporting healing.

The voices and views of young people. Policies and practices are informed by youth voice.

A focus on our Protective and Promotive Factors. Policies and practices create opportunities that support well-being for healthy development and strengthen young families.

Evidence-informed approaches to our work. Policies and practices are informed by research, evidence of effectiveness and credible theory. Results- based and learning and accountability driven: Policies and practices incorporate strategies for data collection, analysis and tracking of results, as well as generating new knowledge for the field.

An equity-centered approach to our work. Policies and practices are explicit in the goal to achieve equity.

An equity-centered approach to our work. Policies and practices are explicit in achieving equity.

EPY in Foster Care Outcomes

Through this work, we hope to transform the child welfare system and, in particular, how it handles and supports expectant and parenting teens (and their children and families) while they are in the foster care system. We specifically hope to see the following changes:

Child welfare systems:

  • Adoption of systematic, strengths-based data collection protocols that can holistically assess the needs of mothers, fathers, and their children.
  • Methods to increase identification and engagement of young fathers in supports offered by the foster care system.
  • Increase in the creation and use of youth advisory boards that include expectant and parenting youth.

Safe, healthy, and thriving young families, which includes an:

  • Increase in the number of expectant and parenting youth reporting access to a supportive social network.
  • Increase in the rate of expectant and parenting youth graduating high school and enrolling in post-secondary education/vocational schpols.
  • Delayed subsequent unplanned pregnancies.
  • Decrease in substantiated child abuse and neglect reports against expectant and parenting youth . 
  • Increase in rate of healthy births for children of expectant and parenting youth . 
  • Increase in enrollment of children of expectant and parenting youth in early care and educations programs.

Families Thrive

This training is a research-informed approach to support expectant and parenting youth, their children, and families. It is designed to help families succeed and thrive, enhance child development, and reduce the likelihood of abuse and neglect among young parents (for our purposes, we classify “young parents” as those who are under the age of 26 with young children under the age of five). Families Thrive is supported by two research-informed frameworks developed by CSSP: Strengthening Families and Youth Thrive.

Families Thrive Organizational Self-Assessment Tool. The Families Thrive Self-Assessment tool is designed for community-based organizations committed to working with and supporting expectant and parenting youth, their children, and families. It is modeled after a series of assessment tools developed for the Strengthening Families approach. The tool allows organizations to compare their practice to exemplary practice in child and adolescent development drawn from both the research and diverse community organizations across the country and is designed to:

  • Engage youth and caregivers in meaningful conversations about how the organization is supporting the developmental needs of young parents and their children;
  • Systematically reflect on areas of organizational strength and identify areas for further growth and improvement; and
  • Develop an action plan that identifies action steps and mechanisms for tracking progress.

The Families Thrive Self-Assessment tool includes concrete actions that demonstrate how the Protective and Promotive Factors Framework can be implemented through small but significant changes in an organization’s physical environment, operating policies, practices and/or staff development.

EPY in Foster Care Learning Collective

The Expectant and Parenting Youth in Foster Care Learning Collective is an interactive virtual forum where professionals can exchange ideas, information, and resources on innovative approaches and policies to improving well-being outcomes for expectant and parenting youth in foster care and their children.

Get more information and sign up here.

Our Experts

Susan Notkin

Susan Notkin

Senior Vice President, Systems Change
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Lisa Primus

Lisa Primus

Senior Associate
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