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Our goal is that youth who touch the foster care system feel empowered and supported in their healthy sexual development; believe they have the right to healthy relationships, healthy sexual development and bodily autonomy; and know how, and are able, to realize their sexual health goals to such an extent that they have better reproductive and sexual health outcomes than youth in the general population.

Youth in foster care face disproportionately poor reproductive and sexual health outcomes and experiences, including high rates of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, poor prenatal outcomes including stillbirth, miscarriage and low birth weight, as well as lack of sexual health education and access to care.

National teenage birth rates have reduced in recent years and California is the state that has reduced its teen birth rate by the most in the U.S. (Change In Teen Birth Rate Comparison, 2019). However, this reduction has not been equitable. Youth in California foster care, interviewed at ages 17, 19, and 21, experience 2-3 times the rate of pregnancy as youth in the general population (Courtney et al., 2014; Courtney et al., 2017; Courtney et al., 2018). At age 17, 26% report at least one pregnancy compared to 10% in the general population (Courtney et al., 2014). By age 21, 59% of women who have been in foster care report at least one pregnancy (Courtney et al., 2018). Notably, the vast majority did not plan to become pregnant and do not call their pregnancies “wanted.” At age 17, when asked if their previous pregnancy was wanted at the time, almost 70% (Courtney et al., 2014). 

Youth in foster care also have poor prenatal outcomes. At age 17, over 42% of those who reported having been pregnant said they suffered stillbirth or miscarriage, and over 20% never received prenatal care. (Courtney et al., 2014). 

Youth in foster care also have disproportionately higher STI rates than their peers. In a national study, youth with a history in foster care reported STI rates at two to ten times the rate in the general population (Courtney et al., 2011). In California, youth interviewed at age 21 reported almost twice the rate of STIs as in the general population (Courtney et al., 2018)

Some of RHEP’s key strategies include:

  1. Engage a Youth Advisory Board comprised of young people with a diverse array of lived experiences in foster care to actively participate in and shape policy and advocacy efforts.
  2. Build local capacity to empower youth by providing trauma-informed and culturally relevant education, training, and resources directly to foster youth, caregivers, community-based health providers, social workers, and judges.
  3. Pursue local and state-level policy changes to support efforts to empower youth and remove barriers to sexual and reproductive health care.
  4. Launch a comprehensive public awareness campaign as a platform for advocacy and information-sharing

We welcome partners who are interested in:

  • Receiving sexual and reproductive health training, education, and resources for working with those involved in the child welfare system, including youth in foster care, caregivers, social workers, health providers, and/or judicial officers.
  • Engaging in policy development and implementation improve healthy sexual development among foster youth.
  • Connecting current and former foster youth to the RHEP Youth Advisory Board.
  • Educating the public on this issue through contributing to a public awareness campaign.


We also encourage you to join our newsletter for updates on our work. If you have any questions, please reach out by clicking “Ask the RHEP Team”

RHEP is a collective impact project. Collective impact is a way of working across multiple systems and stakeholders to tackle particularly sticky and complicated big issues. It is a framework that allows organizations from different sectors and with different expertise to tackle deeply entrenched and complex social problems in a coordinated way, leveraging their unique skills toward a shared goal.

RHEP’s development is led by a cross-sector leadership team that includes the agencies listed above. The National Center for Youth Law provides backbone support for the Reproductive Health Equity Project for Foster Youth.

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