Methods: A longitudinal, population-based dataset was constructed by probabilistically matching California child protective service records for female foster youth to maternal information available on vital birth records. These data were used to conduct a latent class analysis (LCA) that developed profiles of girls who spent time in foster care during adolescence based on key characteristics of their foster care experiences. We then determined the probability of a first birth before age 20 based on class membership.
Results: The LCA detected four distinct classes of girls who spent time in care during adolescence, which were characterized by age at entry into care, length of stay in care, placement instability, running away from care, and changing placements due to behavioral issues. Class 1 was older at entry, spent less time in care, and experienced high level of instability. Class 2 was similar except these girls experienced very low instability. Class 3 was younger at entry, had longer stays, and experienced high levels of instability. Class 4 was also younger and had longer stays, but they experienced very low instability. Among these four classes, the probability of subsequent adolescent childbirth ranged from a high of 31% (class 1) to a low of 15% (class 4), with classes 2 and 3 experiencing moderate risk (23% and 24%, respectively).
Conclusions: The results indicate that there are readily identifiable profiles of maltreated female foster youth who may benefit from prevention and early intervention services, enhanced support, and access to reliable, consistent sexual and reproductive health care.