Sexual Health Risks for Teenage Girls in Foster Care
Foster care can provide a supportive environment for children who may have lived through adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). However, adolescents in foster care have a high chance of developing behavioral issues such as unsafe sexual practices. Foster children have an “increased risk for health-risking behaviors, including substance use, delinquency, depression, suicidality, and sexual behavior.”
Interventions addressing these issues can protect and empower teenage girls in foster care. If you have a foster daughter, ensure she has healthy self-confidence and self-esteem by providing a warm and loving home. Havenwood Academy can help teens heal from mental health concerns, trauma, and behavioral issues.
Sexual Health Risks of Foster Care
Your foster daughter may struggle with behavioral problems that interfere with social connections, healthy attachment, and safe sexual activity. Teenage girls in the foster care system have an increased risk of the following:
- Engaging in transactional sexual acts
- Being diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease (STD)
- Developing mental health issues related to sexual violence
- Maladaptive sexual behaviors
- Being sexually abused or assaulted
- Acting out or delinquency
- Reactive attachment disorder (RAD)
- Irrational distrust of potential sexual partners and difficulty forming attachments
- Premature sexual development
Without parental oversight and support, some teenagers may try to find information about sexual health on their own, often through the internet or other potentially unreliable sources. On the other hand, they may not attempt to educate themselves at all about sexual health. A lack of knowledge can lead to severe consequences, including unsafe sex, unplanned pregnancies, or STDs. A teen who is properly informed by a parental figure who has accurate knowledge and educational resources has a decreased risk of participating in unsafe sexual encounters.
The Importance of Sex Education
Accurate and reliable information about sexual health, safe sex, and normal sexual development can significantly decrease the risk of a girl in foster care experiencing sexual trauma. She will also be less likely to participate in risky sexual activities. Unfortunately, many young women in foster care have little to no sexual education to help guide them through puberty.
As a foster parent, you are responsible for ensuring your daughter receives comprehensive sex education. You can empower her to feel more confident about her body and autonomy. Sex education should involve honest discussions about sexuality and safe sexual practices, including:
- Family rules and boundaries surrounding dating or sexual activity
- Safe sex practices, including using a condom, contraceptives, or abstinence
- How to avoid sexual violence
- What to do if they feel unsafe with a romantic or sexual partner
- Information on changes that take place in puberty and reproduction
- Discussions about gender identity and sexual orientation
- Acknowledging social pressures and encouraging a healthy body image
Provide your daughter with information from school sex education videos, literature, or online fact-based resources. Teens who have experienced early childhood trauma or adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), especially sexual assault, may need additional support.
Relevant Guidance on Sexual Health
As a caregiver for a teenager in foster care, you are responsible for ensuring they feel prepared to explore their sexuality safely. Talking to them requires compassion, patience, and a willingness to be direct while remaining sensitive to their comfort level when discussing sexual topics. According to the Children and Youth Services Review, teenagers and young adults “expressed appreciation for honesty and directness from caregivers and staff about sexual health information and communication.” However, parents “should approach these conversations with finesse and ease due to the sensitive nature of these topics that could very easily make youth shut down and not want to engage in discussion.”
The Importance of Building Self-Confidence
Improving self-confidence is an excellent way to help your foster daughter build a healthy sexual identity. According to the Journal of Adolescent Health, “To improve the social, academic, and health outcomes of young people, it is critical to provide them with knowledge, skills, confidence, and motivation to make healthier behavior choices.” As a foster parent, you have a unique opportunity and responsibility to ensure your daughter develops a sense of self-determination and the motivation to make healthy choices.
Give Your Foster Daughter Reliable Sexual Health Resources
Foster care does not always provide stable environments where young girls can get consistent support from parental figures. Your foster daughter may have had talks about her sexual health with other adults. Determine whether she has a solid foundation for a healthy sexual identity before furthering discussions.
Talk to your daughter about what she already understands about sexual health and what she wants to know. Actively listen to anything she says and respect her boundaries if she has difficulty discussing sexual health. She may have undisclosed sexual trauma and can be triggered by the topic. Being patient and compassionate with your child will encourage her to trust you. Provide her with essential resources that she can explore on her own.
In time, your foster daughter will develop a sense of control over her own sexuality and sexual identity. Knowledge and a nurturing home environment can help your daughter grow into a confident and healthy young woman.
Teenage girls in the foster care system are among the most affected by sexual dysfunction caused by preventable issues. Lack of accurate sex education, parental guidance, or emotional support can affect their sexual health. In addition, foster children may have an undisclosed history of sexual abuse that contributes to risk-taking behaviors. These behaviors commonly include unsafe sexual habits, substance misuse, or behavioral issues. As a foster parent, you must ensure your daughter feels safe and comfortable enough to reach out if she needs anything. Treatment can also help her make healthier choices in the future. At Havenwood Academy, we treat teens experiencing behavioral issues related to past trauma. To learn more, call us at (435) 586-2500.
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