Harris County had the second-highest number of pregnant teens in the Texas foster care system in fiscal year 2019, according to a new report.
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services this month released data breaking down the number of people under the age of 19 enrolled in the Texas Medicaid Star program who were pregnant during fiscal year 2019. Harris County was shown to have 39 pregnant teens enrolled, second only to Bexar County with 54. Harris County also had 36 youth parents in DFPS conservatorship for the fiscal year.
The state also tracks the number of children born to youth in DFPS conservatorship. There were five in Harris County in fiscal year 2019.
The data does not indicate whether teens became pregnant in Harris County or if they moved into the county upon pregnancy.
In total, 322 foster kids were pregnant in the fiscal year, according to the report. That was “a fairly small number overall,” according to Jennifer Biundo, director of policy and data at the Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.
“What that tells us is that we have the resources to support these teens,” Biundo said.
Texas foster youth are more likely to become pregnant compared to other Texas teens, according to the Texas Institute for Child and Family Wellbeing at the Univseristy of Texas at Austin. This is due to a number of risk factors including to trauma and family dysfunction, according to the institute.
The Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy’s stated mission is to look for ways to support pregnancy prevention in the legislature, in addition to assisting pregnant and parenting youth in foster care.
“What we want to see are some basic categories of information that are provided to all students, and we want all the information to be medically accurate,” Biundo said.
All of this data has lead Biundo’s campaign to begin a project called “Collaborative for Youth and Care,” working alongside other Houston-based groups to analyze policies impacting kids in conservatorship. The project is currently in the planning phase.
The group is also working on independent research through UT Health in Houston to assist in drafting potential policy proposals to the state legislature. The proposals would aim to increase sexual education awareness in classrooms.