Legislation helps ensure access to child care, offers support to pregnant foster youth, provides reproductive health education
Sacramento – On Feb. 22, Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco-San Mateo, chair of the Senate Committee on Human Services, introduced legislation to assist pregnant teens and young parents in the foster care system.
Young parents in the foster care system face the challenges of being in foster care as well as being young, usually single, parents. Studies of both groups have found that they will experience higher than average rates of poverty, unemployment and low educational attainment.
While this has long been the case, the issue of parenting youth in foster care has become more pressing with the implementation of extended foster care in California. Research from the University of Chicago suggests that extending foster care to age 21 will roughly double the incidence of parenting youth in foster care.
Current law prioritizes subsidized child care for foster parents; however, foster youth who are parents are not given the same priority standing. Yee’s SB 528 will provide foster youth with children such priority.
SB 528 will also expand statewide a successful program in Los Angeles that provides parenting teens in foster care with individual conferences with specialists who can explain resources available and help facilitate a plan for raising the child.
Yee’s legislation will also ensure that foster youth receive age-appropriate reproductive health education. Currently, there is a lack of clarity about who is responsible for educating youth in foster care about reproductive health, which has resulted in higher than average rates of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases among youth in foster care. For female foster youth who have been pregnant, 30 percent will experience a second pregnancy while in foster care.
Finally, SB 528 will require the Department of Social Services to collect data regarding the number of foster youth who are also parents.
“Parenting and pregnant youth are 200 percent more likely to drop out of high school than to graduate, leaving them without the means to achieve economic stability,” said Yee. “It is imperative that we provide basic resources and assistance for pregnant and parenting teens who are in foster care. SB 528 will assist these foster youth and their children at the most critical time in their lives, and will save taxpayer dollars in the long run.”
“Young parents in foster care are among our most vulnerable,” said Amy Lemley, policy director for the John Burton Foundation. “These young people are doing the hard work of raising children on their own, without family support, in a system that often fails to meet their basic needs. This legislation will change that by using the opportunity of foster care to help these parents complete high school and create safe, economically stable futures for their children.”
Earlier this week, Yee introduced two other foster care bills. SB 342 will require social workers to provide monthly in-home visits to foster youth. SB 343 will ensure that foster youth who are at least 16 years old are provided with critical documents, such as their social security card and copy of their birth certificate, that are necessary to obtaining employment and applying for college.