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Rueda -

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Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal



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Adolescent girls in foster care are disproportionately vulnerable to pregnancy and parenthood. These experiences of motherhood might be partially attributable to experiences of trauma, including sexual trauma. Trauma, particularly related to domestic violence and sexual abuse, have been linked to subsequent struggles in intimate relationships, such as dating violence or engagement in unsafe sexual behaviors. Although some research has begun to investigate experiences of trauma on relationships, there has been a lack of focus on intimate relationships in general and how they have been influenced by past and/or current traumatic experiences. The present study draws on 12 interviews with program staff who work with adolescent mothers at a residential foster care facility. Staff provided perceptions concerning the mothers’ dating and sexual health experiences to provide recommendations for working with this population. Findings present two overarching themes which attend to the nature of the mothers’ lived relationship experiences (e.g., boundaries, expectations) and how those relationships had been influenced by their past experiences of trauma. Findings provide implications for empirically informed and strengths-based, as opposed to deficit-focused, practice. Future research should focus on further developing trauma-informed care for adolescent mothers in foster care.


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