Date of Degree
Willie F. Tolliver
Teenage Motherhood, Foster Care, Standpoint, Race, Intersection, Expectations
Young women in foster care are more than twice as likely to become teen mothers than their non-foster care peers. However, research regarding teen motherhood for this population is limited. Existing studies focus on risk factors and poor outcomes, which are more prevalent for foster care youth than those in the general population. Some studies have examined the experience of motherhood from the perspective of the youths revealing a complex experience that is not wholly negative. This dissertation builds on this body of knowledge by examining these young women’s expectations and realities of burgeoning motherhood from the point of pregnancy. Using Standpoint Theory, I focused on the intersection of race, gender, class, and culture within the context of foster care.
In order to bring the voices of young mothers in care into the discourse on teen motherhood, I used a qualitative research design. I recruited fourteen young mothers from four foster care agencies in the New York City area using a purposive and convenient sampling strategy. All self-identified as either partially or wholly Black or Latina. I interviewed informants using a semi-structured interview guide. I analyzed the interviews using the Listening Guide, a method of qualitative analysis designed to elevate marginalized or suppressed voices.
Findings revealed a complex experience for these young women. Emerging from childhoods filled with relational instability, chaos, and powerlessness, they expected motherhood would transform their lives for the better. Although they expected and found challenges, most described how motherhood gave them motivation, purpose, and hope. Sadly, they found that the institutional and family supports they needed to fulfill their hopes were not forthcoming. They were frustrated by their lack of access to housing, employment, and childcare. Many were no longer in a relationship with their babies’ fathers because the young men were incarcerated or unemployed. Child welfare institutions tasked with helping them transition from care provided little assistance. Although they found emotional support from other women in their lives, these women were not able to provide tangible support.
Future research should determine how to sustain young women’s newfound motivation and determine policies and practices to support their prosocial aspirations. Policy implications include increasing access to transitional services and supports, extending the age of emancipation for similar young women to support their emerging adulthood, and developing credible messenger mentoring programs to connect them with other women from within their cultural communities.
Kibel-Gagne, Joanna, "Expectations and Aspirations of Motherhood for Young Women in Foster Care" (2017). CUNY Academic Works.