California Commits to Ensuring Foster Youth Have Access to Sexual and Reproductive Health Care Services
The National Center for Youth Law (NCYL) has reached an agreement with the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) that eliminates barriers to reproductive health care and provides foster youth the tools they need to realize their reproductive choices. The agreement comes in response to issues raised in a lawsuit NCYL filed against a California group home provider on behalf of California Planned Parenthood Education Fund (CPPEF), Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, and five foster youth. The lawsuit alleged that these youth were denied access to confidential reproductive and sexual health care in violation of their legal rights under the California Constitution. The agreement with CDSS re-establishes and confirms that foster youth have basic rights to access sexual and reproductive health services and education and that CDSS is committed to making sure youth can exercise these rights.
Calling the agreement unprecedented, NCYL Senior Attorney Rebecca Gudeman says “This agreement is an official recognition that sexual development is normal and healthy among adolescents. It will give foster youth the tools they need to support this development in a safe and healthy manner.”
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.”
Highlights of the agreement include:
- Foster youth and non-minor dependents in group homes have a right to medical services, including reproductive and sexual health care
- Such services are confidential and private between the provider and foster youth
- A foster youth must be provided timely transportation to health-related services
- A foster youth is permitted to obtain, possess, and use the contraception of his or her choice, including condoms
- A foster youth is permitted to choose his or her own health care provider
CDSS also agreed to develop guidelines describing the duties and responsibilities of foster care providers and county child welfare social workers in ensuring that foster youth and nonminor dependents are given pregnancy prevention information and services.