Teens in foster care are 2 1/2 times more likely to become pregnant than their non-foster care peers, Los Angeles County officials said Tuesday, highlighting the efforts of a private-public partnership to change those statistics.
“At a time when we’re seeing a significant decline in the rate of pregnancy among young people, our most vulnerable children — foster youth — are still at risk,” Supervisor Hilda Solis said.
In Los Angeles County, home to 34,000 foster youth, 58 percent of girls in foster care have been pregnant at least once by age 19, according to Solis. That’s despite a continuing decline in pregnancies among 15- to 19-year-olds since peaking in 1990.
The Los Angeles Reproductive Health Equity Project for Foster Youth, launched last year and funded by the the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, is a public-private partnership that works to educate foster youth and knock down systemic barriers to sex education and services. It is headed by the Department of Children and Family Services, Alliance for Children’s Rights, Children’s Law Center of California, John Burton Advocates for Youth, National Center for Youth Law, Public Counsel and Seattle Children’s Hospital.
Advocates say many existing services are not designed to meet the special needs of foster youth and it will take a network of people who care to get girls the information they need.
“We need to empower youth and prevent unplanned pregnancy by providing trauma-informed and culturally relevant education, training and resources directly to foster youth, caregivers, community-based health providers, social workers and the other adults in their lives,” said Autumn Taylor, a former foster youth and LA RHEP Youth Advisory Board member.
LA RHEP Director Lesli LeGras says the project approach begins with listening to youth, building the capacity of service providers and public agencies and ultimately informing public opinion and changing public policy.
“Sexual and reproductive health intersect in complex ways with other influences in a child and teen’s life over their time in care, including among others, economic and educational opportunities, the availability of safe relationships and placements, and the influence of explicit and implicit bia,” LeGras said.
Solis and the board directed county staffers from various departments working with foster youth to use and distribute training and educational materials created by LA REHP and by Power to Decide, formerly the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
Some of those materials are available at www.FosterReproHealth.org and powertodecide.org.
May is National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month and National Foster Care Month.