Updates from LA’s Reproductive Health Equity for Youth in Foster Care

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Friends:

Young parents are part of the fabric of any community and deserve to have their health, dignity, and rights supported. In Los Angeles County — where more than one in four girls who were in foster care at age 17 had given birth at least once before age 19 — it is particularly salient for us to collectively arm ourselves with tools, resources, and love to support young parents who are in the foster care system to fulfill the goals and visions they have for their future.

The Los Angeles Reproductive Health Equity Project for Foster Youth (LA RHEP) invites you to celebrate August 25th as Young Families Day — a day of solidarity to de-stigmatize, center, and celebrate young parents and families, created and led by Young Women United and California Latinas for Reproductive Justice. You can join this celebration by posting to social media using sample tweets, visiting the Young Parents Day Toolkit, busting some myths about young parents, or sharing your story and using the hashtag #RespectYoungFams.

We believe that young people (including young parents) who are equipped with medically-accurate, healing-centered, and culturally-responsive information about their reproductive wellness and sexual health are able to make informed decisions about their reproductive lives and family planning — when systems, programs, and the community are positioned to support them to do so. Read on below for some resources and programs that support the needs of young parents in LA’s foster care system.

These resources are not intended to be exhaustive, and we invite you to continue the conversation by joining LA RHEP on October 16th for a dynamic roundtable discussion and strategy session on ways providers can support, uplift, and empower expectant and parenting young people in LA County foster care to achieve their dreams.  
 

REGISTER FOR THE ROUNDTABLE HERE
 

This event is part of a larger learning series being hosted by LA RHEP through the fall. You can get involved by:

 

In community,


Lesli LeGras Morris (she/her/hers)
Director, Los Angeles Reproductive Health Equity Project for Foster Youth

 

 

 Program Spotlight: 
 Los Angeles County’s Expectant and  Parenting Youth Conferences 

 

Preparing for a new baby can be challenging for anyone, but expectant and parenting youth (EPY) in foster care often face additional hurdles that can make the process even more nebulous to navigate. Due to the leadership of the Los Angeles County Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS), the Alliance for Children’s Rights, Public Counsel, and Children’s Law Center of California, for 15 years EPY Conferences have sought to address many of the unique challenges that young parents in foster care face by providing specialized resources, supports, and services to help young parents successfully transition toward independence. 

An EPY Conference is a specialized meeting intended to support young parents in foster care in continuing their education, linking them with health services, and future family planning through linkage to reproductive health clinics and resources. At a typical EPY Conference, youth sit down with members of their community (that they identify and invite), their social worker, a Resource Specialist, and a DCFS Facilitator to talk through their particular needs. Often, youth gain access to material resources for their baby — such as strollers or car seats — and are connected to public benefits and other supports. But EPY Conferences also allow youth to work toward their own personal goals, such as finding stable housing or completing their education. 

Donna Fernandez, Program Manager for the Health Services Section at DCFS, noted that feedback on the Conferences has been largely positive: “Youth expressed that the impacts of the Conferences ranged from encouragement and emotional support to the potential to improve a variety of long-term outcomes, not only for themselves but for their children as well.”

“Conferences are not just about connecting youth to services,” says Barbara Facher, a social worker at Alliance for Children’s Rights and an EPY Conference Resources Specialist. “They are about eliminating the barriers that youth face in becoming successful parents and young adults.” Mara Ziegler, another EPY Conference Resource Specialist and senior social worker at Public Counsel, agrees: “EPY Conferences build on the strength that youth in foster care are already bringing into the room. By providing them with the support and connections that they need, the EPY Conferences provide a window of opportunity for youth to thrive as parents and as individuals.”

EPY Conferences are voluntary and are open to all expecting and parenting youth in foster care throughout LA County, including expectant and parenting fathers. If you know an expectant or parenting youth in foster care and that is interested in an EPY Conference, help them get connected to their social worker, who can help them to request one.  
 

Read about what young people are saying about EPY Conferences by checking out LA RHEP’s EPY Conference evaluation brief HERE and learn more about how the case management conference model came to be HERE.

 

 

 

Adolescent Family Life Programs
 

Similar to EPY Conferences, Adolescent Family Life Programs (AFLP) address the social, health, educational and economic challenges of young parents (including but not limited to youth in foster care) by providing comprehensive case management services to expectant and parenting teens and their children. There are a number of AFLPs throughout LA County, including:

 

 

 

 Changing the Narrative about 

Young Parents 


Justice for Young Families

Justice for Young Families (J4YF) is a long-term initiative that champions young people’s right to self-determination and bodily autonomy, including their decisions about whether or not to become parents and their right to parent the children they have within a supportive environment. Led by California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, J4YF is a multi-pronged campaign that utilizes communications, research, and policy advocacy to amplify youth voices and promote the health, equity, opportunity, and dignity of young families. For almost 10 years, J4YF has pushed to eliminate stigma by acknowledging that unintended pregnancy among adolescents is not solely the result of youth behaviors, but is also influenced by social, economic, and political inequalities. By addressing these more systemic problems, J4YF seeks to ensure that all youth who are pregnant and/or parenting can thrive. For more information about how to get involved, contact Ena Valladares.

 

Project Fatherhood

Many services and programs center the needs of young mothers. But research shows that the presence of nurturing fathers has a profound impact on children’s health and well-being. How can we provide meaningful support to young fathers who are also navigating the foster care system themselves?

Project Fatherhood  is a unique program provides comprehensive parenting skills to young men in caregiving roles — including fathers, stepfathers, foster parents and relative caregivers — using an innovative support group model. After twenty-plus years, more than 15,000 fathers and 23,000 children across Los Angeles County have participated in the program. For more information about how to get involved, contact the Children’s Institute, Inc.

 

 Toolkits for Providers & Policy Advocates 


Using Data to Better Serve Parenting Youth in Foster Care
 

The new Expectant and Parenting Youth in Foster Care: Systems Leaders Data Toolkit from the Annie E. Casey Foundation provides guidance on how to gather, assess, share and leverage data on expectant and parenting youth in foster care to improve policies with those young families in mind.

 

Ensuring Inclusivity for Young Families

The EPY Inclusivity Toolkit from the Michigan Organization on Adolescent Sexual Health provides strategies and resources for service providers, teachers, relatives, and other adults who may work with expectant and parenting youth to ensure they’re being supportive, effective, and affirming in their work.

 

 Online Directories and Information for  Young Parents in Foster Care 


Home Visitation eDirectory
 

Young people who receive Home Visiting services get information on parenting, child development, and other key resources from staff who visit them at home both before and after their child is born. Encourage young parents to use the Home Visitation eDirectory to see which local home visiting program is right for them.

 

Websites for Young Parents in Foster Care

Young parents in foster care need youth-friendly and trustworthy information to understand their rights and resources available to them. Encourage expectant and parenting youth in foster care to check out TeenHealthRights.org and TeenParent.net to see frequently asked questions, additional resources, and learn their rights.

 

 
 Welcome Felicia to the Reproductive Health   Equity Project Team!  

 

The National Center for Youth Law and LA RHEP are excited to announce that Felicia Reyes has joined our team as LA RHEP’s Program Associate! 

Felicia graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in American Studies & Ethnicity where she worked on several youth-centered projects. Wanting to continue her work on youth issues she joined Just in Time for Foster Youth. In her role, she oversaw 3 programs for transition age youth that focused on college and career planning, housing, mentorship, and health. She spent this past year in Mexico, on a Fulbright grant, teaching English and working with migrant women and children. Her interests and work lie at the intersections of the juvenile, immigrant, education, and foster care system. Her goal is to continue to be an advocate for system-impacted youth through policy, advocacy, and community engagement. 

 

 

The Los Angeles Reproductive Health Equity Project for Foster Youth (LA RHEP) is a collective impact campaign with the goal of ending inequitable reproductive and sexual health outcomes for youth in Los Angeles foster care, including disproportionately high rates of unintended pregnancy. By engaging youth and the agencies that serve them, LA RHEP seeks to end the harmful narratives about sexual and reproductive health of youth in foster care and shift perceptions of what it means for trusted adults to support their healthy sexual development and bodily autonomy.

Please contact Lesli LeGras Morris for more information about LA RHEP.

Visit us and learn more at http://fosterreprohealth.org/
 

 

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