SHINE: positive Sexual Health for youth IN out-of-home Environments
Youth who have experienced adversity have higher rates of adolescent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections compared to youth in general. Those in out-of-home care may miss sexual health education in schools and often have not had reliable caregivers to provide them with accurate sexual health information. Compounding the issue, many of these youth have experienced trauma, which is not addressed in sexual health curriculum.
Most adults feel discomfort talking to youth about sex, particularly if we know that the child has experienced sexual trauma. Every child needs to have ongoing conversations about sexual health, healthy relationships and their future plans. The idea that there is one “sex talk” or a couple classes in school is inadequate for every child. For youth in out-of-home care, involved adults must make particular efforts to ensure that youth have safe relationships in which they can talk about sexual health without feeling shame. Every adult who interacts with youth in out-of-home care should be trained in having trauma-informed discussions about sex. Training should focus on building the confidence and skills of adults and provide ongoing support for adults and technical assistance for agencies.
A consolidated effort among service providers to ensure that the sexual health needs of youth in out-of-home care are met through supportive relationships and a specialized approach that considers the impact of trauma is needed.
With funding from the St. David’s Foundation, the Texas Institute for Child & Family Wellbeing (TXICFW) at the University of Texas at Austin’s Steve Hicks School of Social Work is creating a focused task group within the Central Texas Community to promote sexual health education of youth in out-of-home care. This task group will:
1) Complete a needs assessment to understand what information is needed by professionals working with youth in out of home care to support positive sexual health outcomes;
2) Bring together professionals working with youth in out of home care to develop a strategic plan for providing sexual health education in Central Texas;
3) Develop group-based and individual tools for professionals working with youth;
4) Develop trainings for those working with youth; and
5) Implement and monitor the strategic plan.