The case manager serves a crucial role in the foster youth’s life, as the case manager is responsible for overseeing that the youth’s basic needs are met and personal rights are adhered to.1 These rights include the foster youth’s right to access reproductive and sexual health care, such as timely access to services related to the prevention, testing and treatment of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), unintended pregnancy and other related services, including prenatal care.
Some case managers express concern that they aren’t sure what they’re “allowed” to talk to youth about in regards to reproductive health and pregnancy prevention. For example, they don’t want to talk to youth about birth control options and later find out that the birth parent, child’s attorney or other individual is upset by the case manager’s actions. Not only are case managers “allowed” to talk to youth about their reproductive health including birth control options, abortion and STIs, they are required to do so. As is stated in “California’s Plan for the Prevention of Unintended Pregnancy for Youth and Non-Minor Dependents,” by applying the Reasonable and Prudent Parent Standard when addressing youth concerns and questions, case managers can create normalcy and support the healthy sexual development of youth and NMDs based on their individual needs.2
Existing law provides youth and NMDs in foster care with certain reproductive and sexual health care rights. The passage of SB 528 in 2013, added a new right to the personal rights of foster youth. It said that minors and non-minors shall have access to age-appropriate, medically accurate information about reproductive health care, the prevention of unplanned pregnancy, and the prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections. Additionally, case managers are required to discuss with youth their personal rights, upon entry into foster care and at least once every six months.
Due to the passage of SB 89 on June 27, 2017, new requirements are in effect regarding child welfare case plans for foster youth who are 10 years-old and older. Case Managers are now required to review the case plan annually and update as needed to ensure the youth receives comprehensive sexual health education through their schools in junior high and high school, or by other means if they have not received it through their school. Case plans also must be updated annually to indicate that case managers have informed youth of their right to access reproductive and sexual health information and services, and how to access such information and services.
Working with foster youth and discussing such personal topics as reproductive health, pregnancy prevention and other sexual matters can be uncomfortable for the case manager, as well as for the youth. Tips for talking with youth about sexual and reproductive health and ways case managers can build rapport with youth are provided in the section of this training entitled, “Tips for Talking to Teens about Sex and Building Rapport.”