The Sexual Health of Northern, Rural and Remote Youth in Care

(May 2009 – 2011; BCMSF)

Principal Investigator(s): Heather Peters
Co-Investigator(s): Elizabeth Saewyc; Jean Shoveller

Youth in care are a unique population who live in complex circumstances. Due to experiences or threats of violence and abuse, they have been removed from their families of origin to live in the care of the state. They are isolated from support networks, often have fractured relationships with caregivers and are subject to government child welfare policies. Youth in care face greater health, including sexual health, risks than youth not in care. Northern and rural youth also have greater risks than urban youth. The intricate interactions of living in care while in the north are important to explore; yet research with this population is extremely limited.

This study explored the experiences of youth in care in accessing sexual health services. The research developed a profile of available sexual health services along with information on what services are intended to be available according to government policies. Societal structures, policies and programs are important factors in youth sexual health. We used analysis of the data to examine the connections between policy and service structures and access to sexual health services. The research focused on youth from two northern BC communities, one the urban centre of the north (Prince George) and the other a small community accessed by outlying rural communities (Quesnel). This allowed for an exploration of the differences in services and service access between urban and rural areas in the north. Access patterns between the two communities were also explored as there are anecdotal reports that Quesnel youth utilize services in Prince George to avoid being seen accessing services for sensitive health concerns in their home community. The research made recommendations regarding policy and service structure changes in order to improve northern sexual health service provision to this population.

Total: $47,732