Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sex and Kids in Foster Care

We don't need to have comprehensive sex education because "teenagers are going to be having sex anyway," especially when we understand that to mean that they will ALL have sex anyway. You can Google the studies yourself (because I'm lazy), but in fact a majority of teens make it until at least 18 before having sex. Among the teens who are having sex, most teens are not having it regularly. If you want to teach your kids that they should wait until they are married, the statistics are against you. If you want them to wait until after high school, treat sexuality as something to be shared only in mature and respectful relationships, there is a realistic chance you can succeed. Most high school kids don't have sex.

We need comprehensive sex education because a minority of teens are having sex.

Those teens who are having sex are not terribly responsive to the message that they should stop.

Now here's the part that is tricky to say correctly. On one hand, the kids who are having sex are coming from all parts of society, and have parents with all sorts of commitments, philosophies, religious perspectives, etc. On the other hand, having been sexually abused is a risk factor for early sexual activity. Kids in foster care have more risk factors for early sexual activity, and there are kids in foster care who have no interest in having sex. Well, maybe not no INTEREST, but certain committed to abstinence.

David, Evan and Gary all came to me having been previously sexually active. Though I have made every effort to raise the kids I have had from birth to make the decision to postpone sexual activity until they are "older" (I'm a little unclear myself on how old I want that to be), these boys had already made that decision. It was pretty clear to me that with them any attempt to convince them to choose abstinence was doomed. They had already made a choice.

If you are going to parent kids from foster care you need to think about how well you can handle that.

Even if you were so inclined, foster care rules will prevent you from telling teenagers that you prefer for them to have sex safely in their bedrooms rather than .... where ever else they are going to end up. You will be expected to follow sensible rules like "no guests in your bedroom" or at least "no guests in your bedroom unless the door is wide open." At the same time you will probably deal with social workers who are more interested in preventing teen pregnancy than preventing teen sexual activity. By that I mean you will generally find them willing to talk about getting girls on contraceptives and buying boys condoms.

None of this should be surprising. These are kids who have been abandoned by their parents. Even if that is not really what happened, that is what the kids feel has happened. Their parents failed them. Other adults come and go. Like all humans they need to feel close to people. They need intimacy, emotional and physical, and it is difficult for them to trust the adults in their lives.

So many of them seek it with other teens.

I'm not sure that I really have a point here, just saying that it is part of the territory. If you parent kids from foster care, and I hope that this blog helps some people decide to do that, you have to be prepared for certain things.

And one of those things is sexual activity.

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