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Two teen boys conducting community service in their community.

Going Beyond Sex Education

Why youth development matters
  • Tweet This When it comes to preventing teen pregnancy, vulnerable youth are getting left behind.
  • Tweet This Youth development programs that include service learning can lead to reduced rates of teen pregnancy.
  • Tweet This Hear from FYSB grantee Amy Hunt on how adulthood preparation helps prevent teen pregnancy in Indiana and Wisconsin.

What does a community service project have to do with adolescent pregnancy prevention (APP)? Quite a bit, according to Abby Hunt, Executive Director of Health Care Education and Training in Indianapolis. “Anything that gives youth a way to look outside their current situation and to provide some sort of hope for the future,” helps motivate them to prevent pregnancy, Hunt explains.

Recently, we spoke with Hunt about how her organization is tackling APP in her community as part of our Strength in Action podcast series. Health Care Education and Training (HCET), a training and technical assistance program, receives FYSB funding through both FYSB’s Competitive Personal Responsibility Program (CPREP) and Competitive Abstinence Education (CAE) grants. It partners with local organizations and institutions, such as group homes and correctional facilities, to deliver programs aimed at preventing teen pregnancy among vulnerable populations, particularly incarcerated youth, foster care youth, and LGBTQ youth.

When it comes to preventing teen pregnancy, vulnerable youth are getting left behind. Although overall teen pregnancy rates are decreasing, the reality for at-risk youth is much different.

Youth in foster care are nearly twice as likely to have sex as their peers, and nearly half of girls in foster care have been pregnant at least once by age 19. According to Hunt, many incarcerated male youth have caused at least one pregnancy. These trends can lead to a cycle of intergenerational patterns. For instance, children of teen parents are twice as likely to be placed in foster care, and the sons of teen moms are 13% more likely to end up in prison.

The Benefits of Service Learning

To help vulnerable youth build lifelong skills and set goals for the future, Hunt's program is implementing the Teen Outreach Program (TOP), an evidence-based curriculum that has led to reduced rates of behavior-related problems, including pregnancy, school suspension, and school dropout - particularly among high-risk youth who've given birth before. TOP goes beyond teaching youth about condoms and contraception to enhance their competence in decision making, interacting with peers and adults, and recognizing and handling their own emotions. Participants work with staff to select, plan and implement their own service learning project, requiring a minimum of 20 hours per year.

Anecdotally, organizations that have implemented TOP find that the youth development program contributes to APP even without the sexual education components.

"What we've heard from our partners is that it’s empowering for [youth]. They decide what they want to do [for their service learning project]," Hunt says. "And it feels good to give back."

The service learning project also gives youth specific reasons not to get pregnant. If youth are truly motivated to prevent a pregnancy, they typically can access the resources to support their goal. "If they want [condoms or contraception], we will get it for them, but it’s getting them to want it," Hunt explains.

As a researcher who evaluated TOP noted, a more complete youth development approach that incorporates adult preparation subjects, such as relationship-building skills and career goal-setting, might be better suited for communities preferring a more holistic approach.

Tune in! Hear directly from Abby Hunt. Listen to our Youth Development Matters podcast episode and discover how adulthood preparation can enhance your APP program—through the eyes of someone who lives it every day and experiences its benefits.


Page last updated: August 2, 2016
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