NCYL in the news Press Releases

Foster Youth Ask Court to Stop Harmful Practices at Fresno Area Group Home

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 10, 2016

Contacts:
Lewis Cohen, 510-835-8098 x3045
Rebecca Gudeman, 510-835-8098 x3037

Fresno, CA – Attorneys for Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, the California Planned Parenthood Education Fund and five current and former residents of group homes for foster youth operated by Promesa Behavioral Health (Promesa) have asked a Fresno County Superior Court to intercede immediately and prevent Promesa from continuing its practice of denying foster youth access to confidential reproductive health care and contraception placing them at risk of serious harm.

The request for a preliminary injunction comes as part of lawsuit filed in February of this year. The foster youth, as well as former employees, allege that young women are being denied access to necessary reproductive and sexual health care. Rebecca Gudeman, a Senior Attorney at the National Center for Youth Law (NCYL), says that foster youth are some of the state’s most vulnerable children. “Foster youth are especially at risk of sexual coercion, unwanted pregnancies, and contracting sexually transmitted diseases. Ensuring they have access to desired reproductive and sexual health care, especially contraception, is a critical part of giving foster youth back some control over their bodies and lives.” Lack of access to this care has been shown to have lifelong harmful effects for these individuals and society.

The California Constitutional right to privacy protects the fundamental right of California adolescents to retain personal control over the integrity of their bodies and to decide whether and when to parent. Yet, according to the lawsuit, Promesa has regularly confiscated foster youths’ contraceptives, such as condoms, arbitrarily prohibited foster youth from receiving reproductive health care, including pregnancy care, and forced youth to allow group home staff into the exam rooms at their ob-gyn appointments.

“Not only does Promesa’s practice of confiscating contraceptives violate California Constitutional and statutory law, it also defies common sense given Promesa’s knowledge that many of the youth placed in its care have been sexually abused, are at high risk of sexual exploitation and unwanted pregnancy, or have already had children,” says Leecia Welch, Senior Attorney at NCYL. Michelle Ybarra, a Partner with the law firm Keker & Van Nest LLP, which along with NCYL is representing the plaintiffs says: “Promesa’s conduct flies in the face of the rights guaranteed to minors under California law, both regarding their right to consent to receive medical treatment for the prevention of pregnancy and STDs, as well as to maintain the confidentiality of their medical information.”

L.B., one of the young women bringing the suit, says that she brought the lawsuit to help others: “I don’t want other girls to go through what I went through.” Plaintiff S.H. adds: “It is hard enough for youth in the foster care system with all the obstacles we face. Promesa makes it even worse by interfering with our private decisions and forcing us to suffer the humiliation of having group home staff in our gynecological exam rooms.”

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The National Center for Youth Law is a non-profit law firm that helps low-income children achieve their potential by transforming the public agencies that serve them.

Based in San Francisco, the nearly 90 trial and litigation attorneys of Keker & Van Nest LLP devote their practice exclusively to complex civil and criminal litigation. Keker & Van Nest also has a long and proud tradition of providing pro bono representation, including immigration and asylum matters, civil rights litigation, habeas corpus and criminal matters. For more information about Keker & Van Nest, its attorneys, and its services, visit www.kvn.com.