LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to implement a state program aimed at reducing teen pregnancies among foster youth.
Supervisors Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl co-authored the motion, saying targeted education is needed to overcome the stigma and challenges around preventing early and unplanned pregnancies. [Read the motion here.]
By age 21, one in three girls in foster care will give birth, Solis said.
“The harms experienced by both young parents and their children come at a great expense,” Solis said. “Worse, however, are the human costs of a lost childhood and a displaced future due to circumstances that could have been prevented with proper medical care and sex education.”
Kuehl said the motion could be summed up in a single word: opportunity.
“It’s about making sure that girls in foster care have the necessary information to make informed decisions about actions that will ultimately affect their education, their employment, their aspirations and their readiness to start a family,” Kuehl said. “We want them to know that the trajectory of their life could be dramatically altered by an unintended pregnancy.”
California’s Plan for the Prevention of Unintended Pregnancies for Youth and Non-Minor Dependents tasks foster care providers, social workers and probation officers with offering access to information on reproductive and sexual health care, including abstinence, contraception and sexually transmitted infections.
Foster youth are particularly at risk for early pregnancy based on a history of abuse and trauma and a lack of guidance and reliable relationships with trusting adults, according to a study by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
Solis cited statistics that put the cost of teen childbearing at $10.9 billion in 2008, with child welfare system expenses accounting for $2.8 billion of that total.
A report back on implementation and communication strategies is expected in 60 days.