Why foster youth need “sex ed”: Social work practices regarding sexual reproductive health
At present, more than 500,000 American children live in foster care. Adolescents and young adults placed in our child welfare system are at an increased risk for pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections due to their likelihood to engage in high-risk behaviors, such as unprotected sex and sex with multiple partners. They receive unclear and inconsistent messages about sexual and reproductive health and lack access to reproductive health services and programs. Using a mixed methods approach, data from a comprehensive quantitative survey of foster youth and focus groups held with social workers and foster parents will be presented. More than 75% of foster youth surveyed (ages 14-19) had ever had sexual intercourse. 53% of these youth were unaware that condom use can decrease their risk of getting HIV/AIDS and other STIs. The majority of social workers and foster parents expressed concern that numerous sexual health behaviors were a problem for foster youth. Social workers also indicated that they generally did not receive sufficient training, if any, yet were expected to address sexual reproductive health issues with youth. Focus group participants highlighted the following needs to be included in the training: (1) a focus on having positive conversations with youth which could lead to a decrease in teen pregnancy; (2) how to reduce the stigma attached to discussing sex; and, (3) the inclusion of the adolescent's viewpoint. Social and health service agencies must create environments that both administratively and programmatically address sexual reproductive health issues specific to foster youth.
Social and behavioral sciences
Identify the sex education and reproductive health needs of foster youth.
Describe the current practices of social workers and foster families when engaging foster youth about sexual reproductive health.
Discuss practices that promote the development of positive sexual reproductive health behaviors among foster youth.
Keyword(s): Sexual Risk Behavior, Adolescent Health
Presenting author's disclosure statement:
Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been the co-principal of grants focusing on the physical and mental health needs of adolescents. Among my specific interests has been the development of interventions to reduce sexual risk behaviors of foster youth.
Any relevant financial relationships? No
I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines,
and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed
in my presentation.