The Total Child

Preventing Teen Pregnancy and Building Strong Futures

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The following guest blog post comes from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office of Adolescent Health.

Temper tantrums, spilled food, and dirty diapers are big enough challenges for any parent. What happens when these experiences occur during the already tumultuous years of adolescence? In recognition of National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Awareness Month in May, let’s join together to raise awareness about this important issue facing our nation’s young people and the educators, parents, and providers who care for them.  

The good news is that the national teen pregnancy rate has declined almost continuously over the last two decades and has reached a historic low. Yet, as a nation, we still have a lot of work ahead of us. The U.S. teen birth rate is higher than that of many other developed countries, including Canada and the United Kingdom. It’s estimated that eleven percent of young women will give birth and nine percent of young men will become fathers in the U.S. before turning twenty.

Childbearing during adolescence negatively affects the parents, their children, and society. While approximately 90 percent of women who do not give birth during adolescence graduate from high school, only about half of teen mothers receive a high school diploma by 22 years of age. Teen mothers are also more likely to rely on public assistance and be poor as adults. Their children are also more likely to have lower school achievement and to drop out of high school and to have higher rates of health problems, incarceration, and unemployment.

There is hope, however, and our children deserve our very best efforts to ensure a bright future. We know that engagement in learning is linked to delayed childbearing in adolescents. Teens who are enrolled in school, participate in after-school activities, have positive attitudes toward school, and perform well educationally are less likely to have or father a baby.

Since we started in 2010, the Office of Adolescent Health (OAH) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has used the best scientific evidence available to prevent pregnancy among teens and to help them grow into healthy, thriving adults. Our Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) Program has funded organizations across the country to implement programs that have demonstrated effectiveness in schools and communities, or to develop and evaluate new, innovative TPP approaches. With programs in 39 states and the District of Columbia, we reached over half a million young people ages 10-19 from 2010-2015. As we move forward, we anticipate more than doubling that figure to reach approximately 1.2 million youth over the next five years.  

There are also resources for expectant and parenting teens and their families. Through the Pregnancy Assistance Fund, OAH funds states and tribal entities to provide a seamless network of supportive services. We also want to remind you that Title IX provides protections for pregnant and parenting students, and that the U.S. Department of Education has information for administrators and students clarifying requirements.

 Preventing teen pregnancy requires thoughtful, multi-faceted and multidisciplinary solutions. Recognizing the well-established connections between health and academic achievement, schools play an important role in not just helping young people avoid pregnancy, but also in supporting their overall developmental needs. Together, we can continue to help teens avoid risky behaviors and provide them with the resources and opportunities to thrive, now and in the future. 

To learn more about how educators can promote adolescent health and healthy development, please visit: http://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/tag/for-professionals/education.html.

Sources:
Office of Adolescent Health: http://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/adolescent-health-topics/reproductive-health/teen-pregnancy/
Center for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/teenpregnancy/about/index.htm


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