Teen Sexual Health and Education Now in State Environments (Teen SENSE) is a multidisciplinary initiative that works to secure the right of youth in state custody to comprehensive, LGBTQ-inclusive sexual health care and sexual health literacy programs. This includes ensuring that staff of foster care, detention, and other government-operated and -regulated youth facilities are equipped to understand and protect all youth in their care, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. Professional standards and expert consensus indicate that the provision of these services is vital to the health, safety, and well-being of young people. This is not only a matter of good public health policy, but is required by law.

Experts in adolescent medicine, public health, sexual health education, child welfare, and juvenile justice engage with community organizers and youth advocates to develop a complete advocacy model and coordinate its implementation. CHLP provides ongoing support for Teen SENSE, and coordinates activities among all partnering individuals and organizations.

In April 2012, Teen SENSE released the first set of Model Policies to serve as consistent, written assurances that comprehensive, LGBTQ-inclusive sexual health services are available to youth in out-of-home care, and that youth facilities staff are culturally competent, including on the rights and needs of LGBTQ youth. The Model Policies include: 

In January 2012, Teen SENSE released the first set of Model Standards to guide advocates, community-based organizations, and government agencies that have adopted the Model Policies. The Model Standards include:

  • Teen SENSE Model Standards: Sexual Health Care for Youth in State Custody. These standards reflect the minimum requirements of LGBTQ-inclusive sexual health care services for youth in state custody. Youth should be provided with confidential, culturally competent care including physical and mental health screenings; STI and HIV testing; information and treatment related to pregnancy, STI and HIV transmission and prevention, and sexual violence. Youth who are pregnant, gender nonconforming, or LGBTQ should not be treated differently or receive a lesser standard of care.
  • Teen SENSE Model Standards: Sexual Health Literacy for Youth in State Custody. These standards outline the elements of a sexual health literacy program for youth in the state custody. At a minimum, even youth who are in out-of-home care for a short period should be equipped with basic information on STI and HIV transmission and prevention, and be provided contact information for community service providers related to pregnancy, sexual violence, and LGBTQ discrimination. Both the facility environment and the attitude of instructors should reflect nonjudgmental, inclusive attitudes that create a comfortable space for youth of any sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.
  • Teen SENSE Model Standards: Staff Training Focusing on the Needs of Youth in State Custody. These standards are designed to ensure that staff in state facilities are equipped to understand and protect the health and well-being of all youth, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. The standards serve as a guide for staff at every level of child welfare and juvenile justice agencies, including caseworkers, medical service providers, security personnel, and probation officers. Staff should be trained on the rights of youth to health, sexual and reproductive autonomy, safety, and freedom from discrimination.

The Youth Advocacy Corps, a related initiative of Teen SENSE, provides an opportunity for young people from across the country to develop competence and real-world experience in sexual health advocacy. Through the Youth Advocacy Corps, young people learn about issues related to sexual health and the law, and develop the skills necessary to become effective advocates through contact with policymakers at the local, state and federal level. 

For more information about Teen SENSE or the Youth Advocacy Corps, contact us at info@hivlawandpolicy.org.