Healthcare Rights of Youth in Illinois (updated January 2018)

Healthcare Rights of Youth in Illinois (updated January 2018)

Terms to Know

  • legal rights: protections we are given by law
  • state laws: written statements passed by the Illinois General Assembly and signed by the Illinois Governor
  • healthcare provider: this could be a doctor, nurse, nurse practitioner, midwife, counselor, social worker, or other professional
  • minor: in Illinois, a minor is someone under the age of 18
  • mature minor: in Illinois, a mature minor is someone under the age of 18 who is married, pregnant, or a parent
  • confidential: something that will be kept private
    • in Illinois, youth have the right to confidentiality when talking to healthcare providers or getting a procedure
    • exceptions to confidentiality
      • cases of abuse and neglect by a family member, guardian, or caretaker (source: 325 ILCS5/Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act)
      • may pose a danger to others
      • may pose a danger to themselves

Services & Laws

  • General Healthcare
    • No consent needed by parent or guardian if a minor is married, pregnant, or a parent. Consent is needed for minors if they do not meet these qualifications.
      • Individual clinics may have their own policy or practice as consent is different from notification.
    • See 410 ILCS/Consent by Minors to Medical Procedure Act.
  • Pregnancy Testing
    • No consent needed by parent or guardian for OTC pregnancy tests. In-office pregnancy tests may fall under "General Healthcare."
  • Parenting
    • No consent needed by parent or guardian, as prenatal care is "General Healthcare."
  • Abortion
    • Parent or guardian must be notified 48 hours prior to minor's abortion procedure. Consent is not needed.
      • Notification may be waived by judicial bypass (court order).
    • See 750 ILCS 70/Parental Notice of Abortion Act.
  • Barrier Methods/Condoms
    • No consent needed by parent or guardian for external condoms, but internal condoms now require a prescription.
      • Available for purchase or for free in many locations.
  • Emergency Contraception
    • Plan B One-Step and generics available OTC without consent or a prescription. Other versions require a prescription for 16 and younger, but no consent is required at the pharmacy.
      • See below for sexual assault-specific regulations.
  • Hormonal Methods
    • No additional consent needed by parent or guardian for youth 12 and older.
    • See 325 ILCS 10/Birth Control Services to Minors Act.
  • HPV Vaccine
    • Consent needed by parent or guardian as it's a vaccine, but consent can be bypassed in some cases if minor thinks they were exposed to HPV.
  • STI/HIV Testing and Treatment
    • No consent needed by parent or guardian for youth 12 and older.
      • Providers are not required to share results with parent or guardian by are allowed to.
    • See 410 ILCS 210/Consent by Minors to Medical Procedure Act.
  • Sexual Violence and Assault
    • No consent needed by parent of guardian for:
      • making a police report
      • consenting to healthcare at the hospital, including treatment for STIs, HIV, and emergency contraception
      • consenting to evidence collection and release
      • 90 days of follow-up medical care
      • 5 counseling sessions at a rape crisis center (12-16 years old)
      • determining of parameters of confidentiality (12 and older)
    • Protective orders require someone 18+, but it does not have to be a parent or guardian.
    • See 410 ILCS 70/Sexual Assault Survivors Emergency Treatment Act and 410 ILCS 210/Consent by Minors to Medical Procedure Act.
  • Outpatient Mental Health
    • 12-16 years old
      • No consent needed by parent or guardian for eight 90-min. sessions.
      • Consent needed to continue unless counselor believes it's in the minor's best interest to continue or that parental involvement would be detrimental to minor's well-being.
    • 17 and older
      • No consent needed by parent or guardian.
    • See 405 ILCS 5/Mental Health & Developmental Disabilities Code. Effective 1/1/18; was previously limited to five 45-min. sessions.
  • Inpatient Mental Health
    • Voluntary admission without parental consent at 16 years old, but parent or guardian is informed immediately.
    • Involuntary admission by a parent or guardian is possible, but a minor 12 years or older can object and be released within 15 business days.
    • See 405 ILCS 5/Mental Health & Developmental Disabilities Code.
  • Substance Use Treatment
    • No consent needed by parent or guardian for youth 12 and older for inpatient or outpatient. Family involvement or release of information is only allowable with the youth's consent.
    • See 410 ILCS 210/Consent by Minors to Medical Procedure Act

Advocating for Youth Rights in Healthcare with Parents: effective communication skills cheat sheet

Advocating for Youth Rights in Healthcare with Parents: effective communication skills cheat sheet

  1. Affirm the parent's questions and experiences with empathy. Don't get defensive or take it personally if they are upset about the policies/laws.
  2. Lead by listening. Ask open-ended questions to better understand the parent's concerns so that they don't feel dismissed.
  3. Avoid complicated language. Provide reference materials about the policies/laws and break down what they mean and why they were enacted.
  4. Be in partnership with the parent. Acknowledge the parent wants to keep their child safe and healthy and that you do, too!
  5. Encourage parents to communicate with their child in all areas, but point out that some topics are harder than others.
  6. Empower the parent and the child by gradually shifting more of the decision-making responsibilities from the parent to the child. This puts the child on a great path of taking charge of their health for the rest of their lives and making healthy decisions.

Sex Ed Saves, a curriculum

Sex Ed Saves, a curriculum

ICAH's youth leaders published a new comprehensive sexuality education curriculum for grades 6-12 that aligns with the National Sexuality Education Standards. It's the first curriculum of its kind.

Sex Ed Saves: Amplifying Youth Voice through Sex-Positive Education addresses youth's needs for sexual health, rights, and identities knowledge through a range of interactive and expressive activities that engage all learning styles. Lessons range from anatomy, pregnancy, and reproduction, to media justice, healthy relationships, and advocacy.

This curriculum stands in stark contrast to the bill passed through the US House as part of No Child Left Behind to prohibit funding for programs or materials “directed at youth, that are designed to promote or encourage sexual activity, or normalize teen sexual activity as an expected behavior, implicitly or explicitly, whether homosexual or heterosexual.” The young people who wrote Sex Ed Saves instead emphasize that sexuality should be medically accurate and shame-free rather than stigmatized. Studies have shown that none of the comprehensive programs hastened the initiation of sex or increased the frequency of sex and instead led to increased condom use and “delayed or reduced sexual activity” (SIECUS).

Countless longitudinal studies have proven that quality sexuality education leads to improved health outcomes and perception of self in young people. To that end, this book aims to improve the landscape of sex ed for the benefit of young people in Illinois. Although Chicago Public Schools are implementing medically accurate, inclusive curriculum across the board, the same is not true in the state of Illinois. Illinois does not mandate sexual education at all. When it is taught, according to the Illinois School Code, “honor and respect for monogamous heterosexual marriage” must be taught. This strategy does not work for young people who identify as queer or trans, who are parenting, or who are not monogamous. These challenges inspired the youth leaders who wrote this curriculum to take an inclusive approach, opposing shaming sex ed practices that create a discriminatory school environment.

As one of ICAH’s youth educators and creators of the comprehensive curriculum put it: “Peer Education has the power to create or discover a leader in each youth.” If all Illinois schools taught this innovative curriculum, we’d be another step closer to ensuring all youth are safe, affirmed, and healthy.

What is Participatory Action Research?

What is Participatory Action Research?

Participatory Action Research (PAR) is a process of engaging a community in defining questions important and meaningful to their lives, gathering information and ideas about those questions, and coming to an understanding that generates insights that can be used to create social change. ICAH believes that youth are the experts of their own experiences and that PAR enables individuals to act as authors of their own narratives.

In 2013, ICAH hosted a PAR project to support families in understanding a core value: that young people need to be safe, affirmed, and healthy. The Given & Chosen Families Research Report provides both qualitative and quantitative insight into empowering ideas about conversations with given and chosen families about sex and sexuality. Youth implemented this research process in order to act as the primary investigators of their own lives and communities by asking:

What starts or stops youth from talking with their given and chosen families about sex and sexuality?

The report calls for a clear need to support healthier conversations between youth and their given and chosen families around sex and sexuality.

What’s a "given family"? The family you live at home with and/or the family you were born into such as your parents, grandparents, siblings, etc.

What’s a "chosen family"? the supportive community you put together outside of the family you were given. This can sometimes include friends, but also adult allies, boyfriends, girlfriends, etc.

Main Goal for Research:

Assessing the perceived barriers and benefits among youth in starting family-supported conversations about sex and sexuality.

Key Objectives for Research:

  1. To compare the comfort levels among youth in talking with their given families about sexuality versus talking with their chosen families.
  2. To compare support provision between youth and their given families versus youth and their chosen families related to sexual health, rights, and identities.
  3. To assess the various sexuality-related topics discussed between youth and their given and chosen families
  4. To legitimize the concept of chosen families alongside given families for ICAH youth and all research participants

Methods for Research:

  • 80 Individual Interviews: 20 youth leaders each conducted four one-on-one interviews with their Chicago peers
  • 387 Online Surveys: 20 youth leaders disseminated an online comfort-assessment survey to youth ages 16-22 from across the country, supported by ICAH staff
  • 1 Focus Group: 20 youth leaders participated in one in-person focus group, facilitated by the Youth Education Coordinator, focusing on connecting the online comfort-assessment survey to positive sexual decision-making among youth


For longer discussions and statistics, please download the full report.

  • Youth are more comfortable talking with their chosen families about sexuality than their given families, but both groups lack the skills necessary to host accurate conversations.
    • 50% of youth perceived that the information presented to them by both their given and chosen families was only somewhat accurate.
  • Conversations between youth and their given families must be normalized and expected at a cultural level, increasing youth comfort in talking with their given families.
    • 63.2%of youth indicated that they feel more comfortable talking with their chosen families about sex and sexuality, compared to 9.7% who said they felt more comfortable talking with their given families14.5% who said they felt comfortable talking with both families, and 4.2% who said they felt comfortable with neither.
  • Youth utilize their given and chosen families for different types of support, so both families must collaborate on sexuality-related conversations.
    • When asked to list the top three types of support provided by each family, the majority of youth listed Emotional, Advice, and Intellectual support for their chosen families. For their given families, the majority of youth listed Educational, Financial, and Emotional as the main types of support provided.
  • Because chosen families are uniquely situated to host conversations on sexuality, youth should be encouraged to educate their chosen families about their bodies and health in informal settings, especially those who already have accurate sexuality information.
    • When asked, “What CAN’T you talk to your chosen family about?” 75.7% of youth responded, “Nothing, I can talk to my chosen family about anything.”
    • Noting the drastic amount of youth that reported having adult allies in their Chosen Families (33.5% of youth) opens a large opportunity for adults to support safe, accessible conversations with youth about sex and sexuality.
  • The concept of chosen families is relevant and necessary in building resilience strategies for youth, with 80.7% of youth responding that they had formed a chosen family. Programs and policies in family support systems need to affirm youth in building chosen families to plant seeds for healthy support structures in their lives.


This research will help ICAH’s youth leaders create action to change the way youth talk about sex with their given and chosen families and help ICAH build the capacity of adult decision-makers to better talk to, support, and advocate for youth about their sexual health, identities and rights. From the findings on family-supported conversations about sexuality, ICAH will better understand how to craft sexual health, rights, and identities trainings and campaigns for youth and the adults in their lives. Youth leaders will take each recommendation in the discussion portion of this report to build concrete action next year. They will focus on the research objectives to shape cultural advocacy and education strategies to transform the way youth and their families talk about sex and sexuality.

What are the National Sexual Education Standards?

What are the National Sexual Education Standards?

On January 9, 2012, four leading health organizations released the first-ever national standards for sexuality education in schools. Published in the Journal of School Health, the ground-breaking National Sexuality Education Standards: Core Content and Skills, K-12 provide clear, consistent, and straightforward guidance on the essential minimum, core content for sexuality education that is developmentally and age-appropriate for students in grades Kindergarten through grade 12.

The standards focus on seven topics:

  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Puberty and Adolescent Development
  • Identity, Pregnancy, and Reproduction
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases and HIV
  • Healthy Relationships
  • Personal Safety

The National Sexuality Education Standards are not a mandate and they are not a sexuality education curriculum. Topics are presented using performance indicators—what students should know and should be able to do by the end of grades 2, 5, 8, and 12—and are based on the National Health Education Standards.

Download the National Sexuality Education Standards now!


The standards are the result of a cooperative effort by the American Association of Health Education, the American School Health Association, the National Education Association Health Information Network, and the Society of State Leaders of Health and Physical Education, in coordination with the Future of Sex Education Initiative. Nearly 40 stakeholders including content experts, medical and public health professionals, teachers, sexuality educators, and young people developed the standards in a two-year process.

The National Sexuality Education Standards were developed to address the inconsistent implementation of sexuality education nationwide and the limited time allocated to teaching the topic. General health education is given very little time in the school curriculum. Even less time is dedicated to sexuality education. According to the School Health Policies and Practices Study, a national survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Adolescent School Health, a median total of 17.2 hours is devoted to instruction in HIV, pregnancy and STD prevention: 3.1 hours in elementary, 6 hours in middle and 8.1 hours in high school. Studies have repeatedly found that health programs in school can help young people succeed academically and programs that included health education have a positive effect on overall academic outcomes, including reading and math scores.


ICAH’s training and education reflect our approach to sexuality education that is medically accurate, developmentally- & age-appropriate, culturally sensitive, trauma-informed, and inclusive of youth with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning identities.

We use the National Sexuality Education Standards to develop the curriculum used in our Peer Education and Adult & Professional Development initiatives. ICAH also uses the National Sexuality Education Standards to inform the support and technical assistance we give to school districts on their sexual health education policies. In February 2013, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) updated its sexual health education policy, based on the National Sexuality Education Standards and developed with the guidance of ICAH and other community partners.


Visit the Future of Sex Ed Initiative website.

Read the American School Health Association post.