A 16-year-old in San Jose thinks she has to drop out of school because she is pregnant. A 17-year-old parent in Chico believes her child's father should pay child support, but isn't sure how or where to begin the legal process. A 14-year-old undocumented immigrant in Riverside learns she is pregnant and fears being deported. These scenarios occur each day in California, and teens often do not know where to turn for accurate and unbiased information. As a result, many do not get recommended prenatal care, drop out of school unnecessarily, and in other ways compromise their future prospects and their children's health.
Today, the National Partnership for Women & Families, National Health Law Program (NHeLP) and Planned Parenthood of Pasadena and San Gabriel Valley, Inc. are releasing a free, comprehensive guide and companion website written and designed expressly to inform pregnant and parenting youth in California of their legal rights.
The need for such information in California is great. According to a Public Health Institute study, in 2008, nearly 52,000 teens — almost four percent of all female teens aged 15 to 19 — gave birth in California, and many more became pregnant. Although rates of teen pregnancy in California have declined, they remain high, particularly among Latinas who are twice as likely to become parents as Caucasian teens. And the legal rights of pregnant and parenting minors are frequently violated.
"Teens who are pregnant and parenting are at a greater risk for dropping out of school," said Sue Keppler, Vice President of Education and Community Outreach for Planned Parenthood of Pasadena and San Gabriel Valley, Inc. "The California Pregnant and Parenting Youth Guide empowers them to know their rights and start connecting with available resources that can offer the support and help they need. With the right tools and knowledge, many more pregnant and parenting teens in the state will be able to get the help that allows them to improve their and their children's health and prospects."
The Guide and website (http://www.pregnantyouth.info/) are designed as prevention tools to help the state's young women, their partners and families make the best possible decisions. The Guide is divided into broad topic areas: "Sex and Pregnancy," "Being a Parent," "Managing Your Life," and "Special Situations." These cover critically important issue areas, including: health care, domestic violence, staying in school, custody, emancipation, and immigration. These topics are presented in an easy-to-read question-and-answer format:
Can my parents make me leave home because I am pregnant or have a child?
What rights does the father have?
Can I get public benefits?
How much can I work during the school year?
Does it matter whether I am a United States citizen or an immigrant?
As a foster child with custody, do I have the right to keep my child with me?
The California Pregnant and Parenting Youth Guide is a comprehensive and accessible plain language resource to assist pregnant and parenting minors in navigating access to health care, school, work and custody issues," said Susan Berke Fogel, Director of Reproductive Health at NHeLP. "It distills the intricacies of the law and makes it understandable. It is also an invaluable reference for social workers, educators, and health care providers who advise and work with youth."
Free quick-reference guides are also available for educators, health providers, and social service professionals to guide their work with pregnant or parenting minors in California. These guides are available here
This fall, NHeLP and Planned Parenthood of Pasadena and San Gabriel Valley, Inc. are providing online and in-person trainings for educators, health providers, and social service and legal professionals across the state, to help familiarize them with the guides and how they can better serve pregnant and parenting youth who seek their counsel. Professionals can learn more about the trainings here
In addition to www.PregnantYouth.info, the Guide features an interactive component for youth and adults on Facebook and on Twitter (@CATeenGuide). The Guide is available for download as a pdf file in English and Spanish, and a Spanish-language version of the website will be live this fall at www.PregnantYouth.info.
The WebMD Health Foundation and the California Endowment provided generous support for the California Pregnant and Parenting Youth Guide.
The California Pregnant and Parenting Youth Guide, and its Spanish-language companion, are comprehensive handbooks written for a California teenage audience, that simply, clearly, and without bias, convey what a pregnant or parenting minor (under 18 years of age) and her/his family may want to know about the laws that affect the minor's situation. The guides were written by the National Partnership for Women & Families and are being promoted by the National Partnership, National Health Law Program and Planned Parenthood of Pasadena and San Gabriel Valley, Inc., with support from the WebMD Health Foundation and the California Endowment.
The National Partnership for Women & Families is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group dedicated to promoting fairness in the workplace, access to quality health care and policies that help women and men meet the dual demands of work and family. More information is available at www.NationalPartnership.org.