(Reuters Health) – Teen mothers who are in foster care may be more likely to lose custody of their babies than adolescent mothers in different living circumstances, a Canadian study suggests.

Researchers examined data on 576 teen mothers who were in foster care and 5,366 adolescent mothers who were not. Overall, the mothers in foster care were more than seven times more likely to lose custody of their babies by the time children were two years old, researchers report in Pediatrics.

The greatest risk was in the babies’ first week of life, when teen mothers in foster care were more than 11 times more likely to lose custody than other mothers, the study found. Over the rest of the babies’ first year of life, teen mothers were more than three times more likely to lose custody, and between children’s first and second birthdays, they still had more than twice the odds of losing custody.

“Separation at or soon after birth disrupts mother-child attachment, which is critical in the first year of life and improves outcomes for both mother and child,” said lead study author Elizabeth Wall-Wieler, a researcher at the Max Rady College of Medicine at the University of Manitoba in Canada.

“Not only are the mother and child not able to form secure attachments, but mothers are often traumatized by their loss and cope with things like substance use, which make it even harder for them to regain custody and adequately parent subsequent children,” Wall-Wieler said by email. “The only real risk of mothers and infants living together in foster care is that mothers feel like they are under constant scrutiny by their social workers, and are constantly needing to prove to everyone that they are able to parent, or at risk of losing custody of their…

Mayra Rodriguez
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Mayra Rodriguez

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Mayra Rodriguez
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