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Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights for Youth in Foster Care

Youth in foster care can make many decisions about their sexual and reproductive health care on their own. Youth have the right to choose their own doctor, get the type of birth control they want, protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases, get help with transportation to the clinic, have privacy in their personal information, and have options if they become pregnant.

WHAT SEXUAL AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH CARE CAN I GET ON MY OWN?

You have the right to make your own decision about certain kinds of health care services. This means you can say “yes” or “no” and do not need permission from a parent, caregiver, social worker, or any other adult if you want certain kinds of care.

You can get the following health care services at any age:

  • Female or male birth control or protection,
  • Pregnancy testing, and prenatal (pregnancy) care,
  • Abortion,
  • Health care you need because of a rape or sexual assault

You can get the following health care services if you areage 12 or older:

  • Health care to prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV
  • Testing and treatment for STIs and HIV
  • Mental health counseling

WHAT KIND OF INFORMATION CAN I ASK MY DOCTOR OR ANOTHER TRUSTED ADULT ABOUT?

You have the right to get the information you want about sexual health care. You can ask your doctor or another trusted adult anything you want such as:

  • Reproductive and sexual health care,
  • Ways to prevent pregnancy and pregnancy testing,
  • Abortion,
  • Prenatal (pregnancy) care, like monthly or weekly doctor visits during pregnancy, and
  • How to prevent and treat STIs, including HIV medication and the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination

If they don’t know the answers, they can point you to resources.  Your social worker is required to help you find accurate and honest information about these topics if you ask for that help.

WHAT WILL MY DOCTOR KEEP CONFIDENTIAL (PRIVATE)?

When you get sexual or reproductive health care or ask your doctor questions about sex, your doctor cannot share that information with your parents, caregivers, group home, social worker, or probation officer without your written consent. This is your “right to privacy” and its guaranteed by the Constitution and state law. There are a few small exceptions. The most important exception to know is that if your doctor believes you are in danger, are a danger to someone else, or have been a victim of abuse or assault, the doctor is required to make a report so that they can get you help.

CAN I ASK MY DOCTOR TO EXPLAIN WHAT THEY WILL KEEP CONFIDENTIAL?

Yes! You have the right to ask your doctor to explain “privacy” to you and who can and cannot get your medical information before you get any health care.

CAN I CHOOSE MY DOCTOR?

Yes! You have the right to choose your own health care provider for sexual and reproductive health care, as long as the provider is covered by your Medi-Cal or other approved insurance.

Your caregiver and social worker must help you get there, even if it is across town.

If your caregiver or group home is not letting you choose your doctor, you should tell your court appointed attorney.  In addition, you can consider (or talk to your lawyer about) reporting to:

  • The California state Foster Care Ombudsperson (1-877-846-1602)
  • The Los Angeles Foster Care Ombudsperson (213-253-0117)
  • Community Care Licensing Division of the California Department of Social Services (1-844-538-8766)

Complaints made to the Ombudsperson and the Community Care Licensing Division are confidential and you cannot be threatened or punished for making complaints.

HOW CAN I GET HELP WITH TRANSPORTATION TO THE DOCTOR/THE CLINIC?

Your caregiver, group home, or social worker must help you with transportation to get reproductive and sexual health care services in a timely manner, and from the provider you choose to see, even if the doctor you want to see is across town.

If you are having trouble getting transportation to an appointment, you should tell your court appointed attorney.  In addition, you can consider (or talk to your lawyer about) reporting to:

  • The Los Angeles Foster Care Ombudsperson (213-253-0117)
  • The California state Foster Care Ombudsperson (1-877-846-1602)
  • Community Care Licensing Division of the California Department of Social Services (1-844-538-8766)

Complaints made to the Ombudsperson and the Community Care Licensing Division are confidential and you cannot be threatened or punished for making complaints.

CAN I CHOOSE THE TYPE OF BIRTH CONTROL I WANT?

Yes! You have the right to get, have, and use the birth control or protection of your choice in your placement, including:

  • IUD (Intra-Uterine Device)
  • Condoms, including the female condom
  • Birth control pill, patch, or shot
  • Spermicide
  • Dental dam
  • Emergency contraception (morning after pill)
  • Medications to prevent STIs

You also have the right to talk to your doctor about what is right for you.  Your doctor may have a recommendation, but it is your choice.

Get a list of birth control optionsGet a list of protections against STIs.

AM I ALLOWED TO HAVE BIRTH CONTROL IN MY PLACEMENT?

Yes! You have the right to keep your personal items, like birth control, in your own private storage space.

If your caregiver or group home is not letting you keep birth control in your own private storage space, you should tell your court appointed attorney.  In addition, you can consider (or talk to your lawyer about) reporting to:

  • The Los Angeles Foster Care Ombudsperson (213-253-0117)
  • The California state Foster Care Ombudsperson (1-877-846-1602)
  • Community Care Licensing Division of the California Department of Social Services (1-844-538-8766)

Complaints made to the Ombudsperson and the Community Care Licensing Division are confidential and you cannot be threatened or punished for making complaints.

CAN MY FOSTER PARENT, GROUP HOME, OR SOCIAL WORKER TAKE AWAY MY BIRTH CONTROL OR PUNISH ME FOR HAVING IT?

No! Birth control (including all forms of birth control, such as condoms and pills) cannot be taken away from you as a punishment or due to your caregiver’s religious beliefs or personal feelings. You have the right to be free from unreasonable searches of your belongings.

If your caregiver or group home has taken away your birth control or has punished you for having birth control, you should tell your court appointed attorney.  In addition, you can consider (or talk to your lawyer about) reporting to:

  • The Los Angeles Foster Care Ombudsperson (213-253-0117)
  • The California state Foster Care Ombudsperson (1-877-846-1602)
  • Community Care Licensing Division of the California Department of Social Services (1-844-538-8766)

Complaints made to the Ombudsperson and the Community Care Licensing Division are confidential and you cannot be threatened or punished for making complaints.

CAN I BE DISCRIMINATED AGAINST?

No! You have the right to fair and equal access to services, placement, care, treatment, and benefits. Discrimination is when you are treated unfairly, harassed, or discriminated against because of your sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, HIV status, or other factors like race, religion, ethnic group identification, ancestry, national origin, color, or mental or physical disability.

If you feel that you have been discriminated against, you should tell your court appointed attorney.  In addition, you can consider (or talk to your lawyer about) reporting to:

  • The Los Angeles Foster Care Ombudsperson (213-253-0117)
  • The California state Foster Care Ombudsperson (1-877-846-1602)
  • Community Care Licensing Division of the California Department of Social Services (1-844-538-8766)

Complaints made to the Ombudsperson and the Community Care Licensing Division are confidential and you cannot be threatened or punished for making complaints.