On July 16 in the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill, PPHS Community Educator Shannon Heintz and one of her peer educators, Darius Pulley, appeared before the Congressional Roundtable on Preventing Teen Pregnancy and Promoting Healthy Relationships Among Youth in Foster Care.  The hearing was led by Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and provided an opportunity for experts and practitioners, as well as youth who’ve come out of the foster care system, to discuss the need for better sex education and health care services for foster youth. 


PPHS took part in a Congressional Roundtable  

Left to right:  PPHS Peer Educatror Darius Pulley, PPHS Educator Shannon Heintz,  and Jamal Campbell (a PP peer educator from Pasadena, CA) took part in a Congressional hearing on Capitol Hill.

      PPHS was asked to speak before the hearing regarding its highly touted, Raleigh-based education programming for foster care youth and foster parents.  Shannon, who has worked with foster youth and orphans for over a decade, addressed the importance of providing sexuality education programming.  “Foster parents often lack the knowledge and comfort level to address concerns of sexuality among the youth in their homes.  Whenever I offer a multi-session education training to foster parents, one of my primary objectives is to assist them in overcoming their fears and anxiety about addressing issues of sexuality.”


     Last year, PPHS educators began a coordinated effort throughout our four-state affiliate to provide sexuality programming among youth, parents and staff within the foster care system.  Shannon believes, “providing educational programming to foster parents is especially important given the high rates of unintended pregnancy among youth in foster care.”  A recent survey among Midwest states found that by age 19, nearly one half of young women in foster care have been pregnant.  Fully 17 percent of girls in foster care gave birth as a teen, more than twice the rate for all teens. 



PPHS representatives with Senator Landreiu (D-La)

Left to right:  Darius Pulley, Shannon Heintz, Jamal Campbell and Senator Mary Landrieu  took part in a Congressional hearing on Capitol Hill.

     Darius Pulley, who resided in foster care for 12 years, spoke of his own personal experiences in foster care, “For me, being a gay person, I had to come out every time I moved in with new foster parents.  There are many trust issues because not every foster parent is accepting of a gay child in their home.”


     Darius also spoke of his participation as a peer educator in PPHS’s Teens Taking Action program.  As a peer educator, he is trained to provide medically accurate information regarding sexuality to other teens his age.  “There are many different issues that foster children have, and they need someone they can trust to talk to.” 


      PPFA President Cecile Richards, who participated in the hearing, called the statements by Shannon Heintz and Darius Pulley, “especially moving.”  During the hearing, Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI), The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, and the National Foster Care Coalition announced the formation of a new working group dedicated to addressing teen pregnancy among youth in foster care. The group will provide recommendations to the Obama administration and Congress on common sense solutions to help reduce the disproportionately high teen pregnancy rate among those in foster care and those aging out of the system.






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