Missed Opportunities: Pregnant and Parenting Youth Experiencing Homelessness in America

This Research-to-Impact brief is the third in a series that draws on multiple research components from Voices of Youth Count. Adolescence and young adulthood represent a critical developmental window. Every day that young people experience the stress of housing instability represents a missed opportunity to support their healthy development and promote successful transitions to adulthood. Throughout this brief, Voices of Youth Count highlights key findings and new evidence on youth experiencing homelessness who are pregnant or parenting.

The research shows that the number of youth who are homeless and also pregnant or parenting is substantial. Furthermore, many of these young parents are homeless with their children. These young people and their families are a particularly vulnerable population. Coping with pregnancy and parenthood is difficult for any young person; for pregnant and parenting youth who are homeless, those challenges are compounded by the trauma they have experienced and the ongoing stress of not having a safe or stable place to live with their children.

The high percentage of youth experiencing homelessness who are pregnant or parenting stands in stark contrast to the dramatic decline in pregnancy and birth rates among both
adolescents and young adults in the U.S. over the past two decades. While our data cannot explain why the rates of pregnancy and parenthood are so high among youth experiencing homelessness, they do underscore the critical need for additional support for these young people. They also point to several areas for prevention and intervention:

  • Pregnancy and parenthood are common among youth experiencing homelessness.
  • A substantial number of young parents experiencing homelessness have their children with them.
  • About 1.1 million children have a young parent who experienced homelessness in the past year.
  • Youth experiencing homelessness often seek support during pregnancy and after they become parents.
  • Relatively few homeless service providers serve minor parents.
  • It can be difficult for young families experiencing homelessness to maintain relationships while receiving services.
  • Pregnancy and parenthood may increase the risk of youth homelessness.

This research indicates that many pregnant and parenting youth are experiencing or at risk for homelessness. It also highlights opportunities for increased outreach and intervention by homeless service providers and organizations that serve young families.

Publication Date: 
Voices of Youth Count
United States