Developmentally Appropriate Approaches to Discussing Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights with Foster Youth

Tweens / Early Adolescents

Developmental Characteristics and Conversation Starters
Age Range (stages/ages are variable and fluid):
Biological Females: 9-13 years, Biological Males: 11-15 years

The following are suggestions for opening a discussion to address SRH rights of tweens/early adolescents in foster care. Keeping in mind that each young person is unique and each professional young person relationship is different, these suggested approaches are merely that — potential conversation openers.

For tweens/early adolescents, embarrassment and discomfort in talking about SRH is common for both the youth and the helping adult. Despite the challenges of initiating these conversations with young tweens/teens, it is essential that these young people have the information they need. According to the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being, 41 percent of youth in foster care report having sex at age 13 or younger, so starting to share information, resources, and support early is important and
impactful. Acknowledging this discomfort can help to reduce it through statements such as:

Many people your age are starting to notice changes in their bodies and feelings. This is totally normal and may make talking about your body, the changes you are going through, and your questions about it feel embarrassing. Sometimes, the painful things that have happened in the past, including sexual things, make it hard to talk about or even think about your body changes and growing up. I want to help you get answers to your questions and make sure that you know how to take care of yourself. So, if it is okay with you, let’s talk about what you have already learned and what you want to know more about.

Conversation Starters:

Related to their
right to getting
SRH information
Everyone in foster care has certain rights- rights to an education, food, a safe place to live, and other rights too. You also have health rights, and as you get close to being a teenager (or “now that you are a teenager”) I want to talk with you about your reproductive and
sexual health rights, which can be very important as you get older. Lots of times young people have questions about how their bodies grow and change, relationships and sex, how people get pregnant, and how to prevent getting pregnant. Have you had classes at school about these things? I want to make sure if you need anything – information or help getting any services, that you know you can talk to me and I will help you.
Related to their
right to consent
and confidentiality
If you are thinking about having sex or are already having sex, you can go to a doctor or clinic for a pregnancy test or for birth control, and you can get this care on your own without asking permission
from your foster parent, parent, group home staff, case worker, or court. If you go to a doctor or clinic, the things you talk about that have to do with sex, pregnancy, and birth control are between you and the doctor or clinic staff—it is what we call ‘confidential.’
The only time things are not confidential are if you tell them that you are thinking of hurting yourself or someone else, if someone has hurt you, or if you are under 14 and having sex with someone who is 14 or older. If those things come up, for your safety, they may need to contact someone for help. What questions do you have about confidentiality?
Related to their
right to

SRH services and
the case
manager’s role in
removing or
mitigating barriers
It can be hard to find a clinic, make an appointment, and get where you need to go on your own. I can help you with all of these things so that you can get the care that you need.