On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted in favor of increasing education and services aimed at reducing unplanned and early pregnancies among the county’s foster youth.
The motion, authored by Supervisors Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl, directs the LA County Department of Children and Family Services to report back to the board on the status of implementing “California’s Plan for the Prevention of Unintended Pregnancies for Youth and Non-Minor Dependents”—also known as “The Plan.”
The Plan says that counties should make sure that teens and transition-aged foster youth receive age-appropriate education about reproductive and sexual health, healthy relationships, gender identity and sexual orientation, pregnancy prevention and treatment—including contraception and abortions. The Plan also establishes the duties of foster parents, group homes, and social workers, which include providing necessary education, facilitating regular medical check-ups, and more.
The motion also instructs the Chief Executive Officer, along with legislative advocates and the Director of DCFS to support proposed state legislation that would require foster kids over the age of 10 to receive sexual health education.
“The harms experienced by both young parents and their children come at a great expense,” Supervisor Solis said. “Worse, however, are the human costs of a lost childhood and a displaced future due to circumstances that could have been prevented with proper medical care and sex education,”
Foster kids in California are far more likely than their non-child-welfare-system-involved peers to be pregnant or have children of their own. According to Alliance for Children’s Rights, girls in foster care in LA are 2.5 times more likely to be pregnant by age 19 than girls not involved in the child welfare system. And 50% of 21-year-old young men aging out say they have gotten someone pregnant, compared to 19% of 21-year-old males not in foster care.
And in LA County, kids with teen mothers involved with the child welfare system experienced a rate of abuse and neglect, themselves, two to three times higher than kids born to teen moms with no involvement in the child welfare system, according to a 2013 report funded by the Hilton Foundation. Many of the children born to teen parents in foster care eventually become involved in the foster care system themselves.
“To me this motion can be summed up in one word: Opportunity,” Supervisor Kuehl said. “It’s about making sure that girls in foster care have the necessary information to make informed decisions about actions that will ultimately affect their education, their employment, their aspirations and their readiness to start a family.”
“Today, we’re asking the County to help us ensure these girls can become the best they can possibly be,” Solis said. “With guidance, education, and support for them, I am confident we can achieve that.”
Photo by Ernesto Andrade – Flickr