Success and Impact

'RHEPCon' Focuses On Health Sexual Development For Foster Youth

art of young person from behind flexing their arms

Healthy sexual development and improving outcomes for foster youth were the main topics of discussion during an interactive and lively #RHEPCON21 — a virtual conference hosted in 2021 by NCYL’s Reproductive Health Equity Project (RHEP) for Foster Youth.

The 2021 Conference, led by the RHEP Youth Advisory Board, provided an opportunity for youth and their network of supportive adults to receive education and tools to empower youth in foster care in making informed decisions about their bodies, relationships, reproductive lives and futures.

The conference — themed “Head – Heart – Hands + Hope” — followed the initial RHEP framework of “Head, Heart and Hands”:

  • Head — Attendees left with an understanding of updated laws and policies pertaining to foster youth, such as RHEP-sponsored bills.
  • Heart — Youth collaboration throughout the event ensured that the voices and experiences of current and former foster youth led the narrative shifting campaign.
  • Hands — Attendees also received information on new sexual and reproductive health services for foster youth, such as the “Youth Patient Navigator” and the “Teen Talk YAS Virtual Sex Ed Curriculum.”

“Hope” was also integrated into the conference’s framework this year, through an emphasis on the need to integrate hope into conversations around healing and resiliency when discussing healthy development with and for foster youth.

#RHEPCON21 Highlights

RHEP partners at UCLA Medical and Planned Parenthood San Gabriel Valley (PPSGV) discussed the creation of a new Sexual and Reproductive Health Navigator Program at the Olive View Medical Center Hub Clinic and PPSGV. This novel Navigator Program provides foster youth with one-on-one support navigating the healthcare system.

RHEP partners and members also presented on “Teen Talk for Youth in Alternative Settings” (TTYAS), a trauma-informed and healing-centered virtual curriculum for youth in foster care. The curriculum was developed in collaboration with youth formerly in care and it builds on their wisdom, creates community, and provides opportunities to practice talking about their values in a safe space. The #RHEPCON21 presentation included information about the piloting of TTYAS, learnings from working with youth in different settings, and creating community with youth.

Additional session topics included:

  • How to talk about porn and sexually explicit media with youth;
  • Expecting and parenting while surviving exploitation — a conversation with two survivors of childhood commercial sexual exploitation; and
  • Foster-friendly healthcare — meeting the sexual and reproductive health needs of youth in foster care.

The Intersection Working Group, a subset of RHEP’s Youth Advisory Board, also led a panel discussion in which members reviewed takeaways and recommendations from a youth-led research project they conducted last year to better understand the complex experiences of former foster youth during the COVID-19 pandemic. A report on that project is available to access here.

The report highlights personal testimonies, interpretations of systemic inequities, and analysis of different sociopolitical contexts.

#RHEPCON21 marked the second conference hosted by RHEP. To stay up to date on future RHEP conferences and events, sign up for the RHEP newsletter at FosterReproHealth.org.