In honor of National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month and National Foster Care Month, today Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis announced the launch of an innovative public-private partnership to reduce unplanned pregnancies for youth in foster care. The Los Angeles Reproductive Health Equity Project for Foster Youth (LA RHEP) will bring together foster youth and the agencies that serve them to promote evidence-informed strategies that reduce unplanned pregnancies and dismantle systemic barriers to sexual and reproductive health education and service access for youth in foster care.
“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,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis. “Last year, I authored a motion to align the County’s teen pregnancy prevention goals with the LA Reproductive Health Equity Project for Foster Youth to help empower foster youth to make healthy decisions through meaningful conversation and education with trusted adults, and through access to high quality and appropriate care. This innovative public-private partnership, generously funded by the Hilton Foundation, brings together foster youth, LA County, and community partners to promote evidence-informed strategies that reduce unplanned pregnancies and remove barriers to reproductive health services.”
California policymakers have long been at the forefront of supporting community based programs to address unplanned teen pregnancy. The teen birth rate in California has dropped dramatically over the last 25 years, but the number of unplanned pregnancies among foster youth remains stubbornly high. In Los Angeles County, home to 34,000 foster youth, 58% of females in foster care have been pregnant at least once by age 19.
In 2017, the state adopted “California’s Plan for the Prevention of Unintended Pregnancies for Youth and Non-Minor Dependents” and Supervisor Solis, joined by Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, introduced a motion directing LA County staff to report back on innovative strategies involving public-private collaboration to implement the State’s plan in the County. That action helped set in motion the formation of LA RHEP.
The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation responded to the call by funding this new public-private partnership to address the disparate and negative reproductive health outcomes for youth in foster care in LA County. Senior Program Officer Jeannine Balfour says LA County has many organizations that have developed successful programs to address this issue. What was missing, according to Balfour, was something to pull all of these disparate efforts together: “This is a great opportunity for public and private stakeholders to put their heads together to partner and coordinate on efforts that make a difference so that young women and men can realize their potential. LA County is leading the way in being intentional in making sure that happens.”
Autumn Taylor, a former foster youth and LA RHEP Youth Advisory Board member, says many existing services are not designed to meet the particular needs of youth in care. According to Taylor, “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.”
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 bias,” says LeGras. “Successfully addressing unplanned pregnancy prevention requires coordinated efforts with youth, caregivers, agencies, and state systems at many tiers and across all ages.”
Convened by the National Center for Youth Law, LA RHEP’s Leadership Team includes the Los Angeles Department of Children & Family Services, Alliance for Children’s Rights, Children’s Law Center of California, John Burton Advocates for Youth, Public Counsel, and Seattle Children’s Hospital.
CONTACT: Michael Kapp, Communications Director, (213) 974-4111 or firstname.lastname@example.org