National Center for Youth Law

Press Releases

California Commits to Ensuring Foster Youth Have Access to Sexual and Reproductive Health Care Services









March 7, 2017

Michael Weston (916) 657-2268
Rebecca Gudeman,, 510.835.8098 x3037
Ana Sandoval, California Planned Parenthood Education Fund, 916.446.5247 x115

Oakland, CA – California has once again placed itself at the forefront of promoting sexual health and healthy sexual development for youth. Today the California Department of Social Services (CDSS), California Planned Parenthood Education Fund (CPPEF), and the National Center for Youth Law (NCYL) announced a wide-ranging agreement that commits California to eliminating barriers to reproductive health care including providing foster youth with the tools to realize their reproductive choices.

While teen pregnancy rates in California have dropped dramatically, foster youth are more than twice as likely to experience teen pregnancy as their non-fostered peers and 70% of pregnant foster youth have not described their pregnancy as wanted.

California’s agreement addresses issues raised in a lawsuit filed by NCYL against a California group home provider on behalf of CPPEF, Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, and five foster youth. The lawsuit alleged that these youths were denied access to confidential reproductive and sexual health care in violation of their legal rights under the California Constitution.

The agreement with CDSS confirms that all foster youth have basic rights to access sexual and reproductive health services and education and that CDSS is committed to ensuring youth can exercise these rights.

“Sexual development is a normal and healthy part of adolescence” said CDSS Director Will Lightbourne. “We must equip foster youth and the adults in their lives with adequate tools and services to support this development in a safe and healthy way.”

Under the terms of the agreement, CDSS developed guidelines describing the duties and responsibilities of foster care providers and county child welfare social workers in ensuring that foster youth are given sexual health and pregnancy prevention education and services. In addition, CDSS provided counties with training and educational materials to help social workers and foster caregivers support youth development and access to education and services.

As part of the agreement CDSS issued “California’s Plan for the Prevention of Unintended Pregnancy for Youth and Non-Minor Dependents“. According to CPPEF President and CEO Kathy Kneer, the State is breaking new ground.

“California’s plan recognizes that sexual health information and pregnancy prevention need to be shared with foster youth before puberty,” Kneer said. “The plan also recognizes that healthy sexual development is about more than just the physical act of sex. It’s also about positive self-image and healthy relationships.”

NCYL Senior Attorney Rebecca Gudeman says the agreement and plan are additionally important for acknowledging the needs of all youth. “The pregnancy prevention plan recognizes that it’s important to interact with youth in trauma informed and culturally inclusive ways including the provision of information addressing the sexual and reproductive health needs of LGBTQ youth.”

NCYL Senior Attorney Leecia Welch adds: “The agreement pays particular attention to ensuring that foster youth placed in group homes have access to confidential reproductive health care services and education and information about their rights. Youth in foster care should not have to sacrifice their reproductive health care rights for housing, and we are hopeful our agreement with CDSS will make that clear to group homes across the state.”