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Did you know that in Los Angeles County alone there are currently more children in the welfare system than any state child welfare system in the country? Let that sink in. 

At Planned Parenthood Pasadena & San Gabriel Valley (PPPSGV), we've spent nearly two years bridging the gaps between child welfare, educators, and health care providers. Our goal is to ensure youth in foster care get the most out of their health care experience, and we want to empower caregivers to support these youth through different stages of development.   

We are working to create systems of change that increases education and direct care related to sexual and reproductive health. The Reproductive Health Equity Project for Foster Youth recently released a study that directly shows how the work we do at PPPSGV is tied to a key issue youth in foster care face locally:  

  • Only 36% of participating youth in foster care reported that their social worker asked whether they had questions or wanted information about puberty, sex, or sexual/reproductive health
  • Only 27% of youth reported their social worker had informed them of their right to sexual and reproductive health
  • 37% of youth felt uncomfortable discussing sexual and reproductive health care with adults11% of youth are unable to receive care from a health provider they feel comfortable with

The data tells us what we all know – our foster care system needs organizations and people who are knowledgeable and passionate about supporting the needs of youth in foster care. 

I’m Franchesca Ocasio, a PPPSGV Education Specialist managing our youth in foster care work. I’ve dedicated my career to addressing the multitude of systemic barriers, including the ability to access sexual and reproductive health care and education, youth in foster care face. I came to PPPSGV from the Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD), where I worked as the Foster Youth Liaison. In my time at PUSD I worked with students in foster care who struggled to access sexual and reproductive health care due to the complicated nature of the children welfare and health care systems, unsupportive stakeholders and a general difficulty in accessing information. It's been an incredible opportunity to work with PPPSGV and our network partners to remove some of these barriers to care through the California Reproductive Health Equity Project (CA RHEP).      

Our education team is currently in the second year of the CA RHEP project. This innovative project funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Population Affairs and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation aims to address the barriers that limit youth in foster care from obtaining sexual and reproductive health education and services. We are thrilled to work on this project in partnership with the National Center for Youth Law, Health Connected, and others to create a more equitable system for these youth. Together, we need to change the way we approach youth in foster care and authentically engage youth, caregivers, and community partners by listening to their perspectives, concerns, and suggestions.  

I've shared all this with you because May is National Foster Care Month. I want to invite you to join me in bringing awareness to this critical issue in our community and the important work being done to support youth impacted by the child welfare system.  

Thank you, 

Franchesca Ocasio  

PPPSGV Education Specialist 

A big thank you to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation for their continued support of our work with youth in foster care.   

This publication was made possible by Grant Number 1 TP2AH000066-01-00 from the HHS Office of Population Affairs.