(Reuters Health) – Adolescent mothers who are in foster care are more likely to lose custody of their babies than adolescent mothers in different circumstances, a Canadian study suggests.
Researchers examined data from 576 teenage mothers who were in foster care and 5,366 adolescents who were not in care. Overall, foster mothers have lost custody of their babies more than seven times more often than children were two years old, researchers in pediatrics report.
The biggest risk was in the baby's first week of life, when teenage mothers in foster care lose more than 11 times more custody than other mothers, according to the study. Mothers had lost custody three times more frequently in their first years of life, and between their first and second birthdays they were still more than twice as likely to lose custody.
"Separation at or shortly after birth disturbs mother-child attachment, which is critical in the first year of life and improves outcomes for both mother and child," said lead author Elizabeth Wall-Wieler, a researcher at Max Rady College of Medicine the University of Manitoba in Canada.
"Mothers and children are not only able to form secure relationships, but mothers are often traumatized by their loss and coping with things like drug use that make it even harder for them to regain custody and properly educate subsequent children , "Wall-Wieler said by email. "The only real risk that mothers and children live together in foster care is that mothers feel constantly controlled by their social workers and must constantly prove to all that they are able to lose custody of their child."
Foster adolescents are more likely to become teenagers than peers, researchers in pediatrics note.
Compared to teenagers living in other circumstances, young mothers in foster families had more frequent problems with substance abuse, depression, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorders and suicide attempts in the two years prior to the birth of their first child.
However, mothers in foster families had higher pregnancy rates and started breastfeeding in the hospital soon after their babies were born.
Twenty-five percent of foster mothers had their children taken into custody by the social services in the first week after birth. These mothers, said Wall-Wieler, "did not have the opportunity to raise their child, so the child was not removed for lack of parental skills, but rather as anticipating that they would not care about their child or their lack of resources, to support the mother with her child, "such as not finding a foster home that can support both mother and child.
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And another 7 percent of adolescent mothers in foster care lost custody of their children between their first and second birthday.
As a result, nearly half of teenage mothers in foster care lost custody of babies before their second birthday, compared with about 10 percent of other teenage mothers in the study.
The study was not a controlled experiment to show whether or how life in foster homes leads teens to lose custody of their babies. Researchers also lacked detailed information about why teenage mothers or their children may have been placed in the care of child protection services.
"This was attributed to inadequate parenting – the transmission of abuse and neglect across generations," Dr. Kristine Campbell, author of an accompanying editorial and researcher at the Safe & Healthy Primary Children's Hospital Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.
"I do not think we can overlook the possibility that the many other challenges facing young adults from care (homelessness, poverty, unemployment, and limited educational opportunities) contribute to both educational stress and traits Likelihood of (losing custody of babies.), "Said Campbell by email.
But there are exceptions.
"I definitely see young mothers with a foster family who use every fiber of their being to prevent their children from repeating their childhood experiences," Campbell said.
SOURCE: bit.ly/2zjBjcw Pediatrics, online May 29, 2018.