Pregnant and Parenting Teen Initiative

Best Practices

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A Resource Guide of Best Practices for Pregnant and Parenting Teen Programs

Pregnancy Prevention

Community-wide Campaigns
Mentoring Programs
Sexuality Education
Best Practices



Improving life outcomes for teen parents and their children is the rationale for interventions and special support services to this population. It is critical to invest energy in primary pregnancy prevention efforts and to reduce the current high number of repeat pregnancies to teen parents.

Intervention services designed to reduce the likelihood of teen pregnancy can be initiated through early identification of children who are often truant, who experience academic failure, and who exhibit other delinquent behaviors.

These behaviors may indicate a child at high risk for adolescent pregnancy. Programs that focus on primary prevention can also prevent repeat pregnancies among teens. The most effective practices include monitoring, intense case management, extended family involvement, career exploration and preparation, multigenerational community recreational activities and service projects.

Each community has a unique disposition regarding adolescent behavior and must determine independently the extent of involvement in prevention efforts. What may be enthusiastically embraced as a project in one community may not be acceptable in another. Respect for diverse opinions and sensitivity to individuals, families and schools are advised when designing community-wide approaches to teen pregnancy prevention.

Following are brief menus of practice, all based on sound developmental principles, which have been employed with some success in different settings. Each of these can be modified and adapted to the receptivity of a particular community. Consult with knowledgeable colleagues before implementing any strategy.

Community-wide Campaigns

Mobilization of community efforts to reduce teen pregnancy rates does get messages to a larger audience, but at the same time may limit the focus or content of the messages. Finding the common ground can solidify campaigns and is worth the effort. Following are some ways to involve the larger community, choose messages and methods of delivering them, and foster a sense of community responsibility.

Engaging a broad representation of the community in the discussion. Bring all points of view to the table and include: parents; students; community and neighborhood groups; health, education and social service providers; elected officials; and civic and religious leaders.

Convening of focus groups to assess the community's perception of the problem. Different populations or age groups can meet together or separately to pool their opinions. Take care to present the format as nonthreatening and inclusive.

Development of media campaigns using radio, newspapers and local television. Contests can be held to solicit slogans and public service announcements; this will promote involvement and gain public attention.

Linking with local AIDS/STD coalitions and hospital community outreach programs. This can build a broader corps and more resources for prevention campaigns.

Community broadcasting of parenting education using interactive community TV or public access channels.

Collaborating with local prevention coalitions to develop campaigns, share resources and coordinate services. The Pennsylvania Coalition To Prevent Teen Pregnancy offers technical assistance and speakers for coalitions and task forces. They can be reached at (717) 737-4608.

Supporting or initiating a community telephone hotline for youth.

Using existing models whenever possible. There's no need to reinvent! You can customize to suit your needs and population. Advocates For Youth has a good packet of resources for assessing community needs and starting a local coalition.

Mentoring Programs

Consider building on existing local programs such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Use their screening and training process as a model to start. Share resources, expand existing services or build a collaborative pool of adult mentors.

Solicit volunteers through churches, community groups and school parent/teacher organizations.

Seek male mentors through men's civic groups. For diversity of ethnicity and locale, contacts with neighborhood churches, NAACP and crime watch groups may prove fruitful.

Develop screening and monitoring procedures that assure a resource base of committed and reliable adults.

Use incentives such as mileage reimbursement, discounted or free tickets to activities and tokens of appreciation such as thank-you notes and certificates to validate mentors' dedication.

Include job shadowing or one-on-one youth/adult teaming for one day when ongoing mentoring is not possible.

Recruit a local business or community agency to "adopt" your mentoring project. The employer can offer release time to employees so they can serve as mentors during the school day, over lunch or after school.

Sexuality Education

Encouraging school districts to examine the sexuality education currently offered in their schools and assess its effectiveness in the context of good health practices can be done respectfully. Facilitating a preview of materials available for sexuality education may be regarded as helpful. Your local intermediate unit may provide such an opportunity to its districts as an in-service option. Collaborating with local AIDS coalitions and regional health departments as well as school nurses and health teachers may be helpful in promoting such a preview.

Curricula that have been well received by students, parents and teachers include but are not limited to the following:

Reducing the Risk (ETR Associates)

  • Designed for middle and high school-aged teens
  • Abstinence encouraged, comprehensive in its information
  • Sequential or individual lessons, variations offered
  • Interactive, includes role playing

Sex Can Wait (ETR Associates)

  • Available at three age levels
  • Abstinence preferred, age appropriate in information/content
  • Usable as units or individual lessons

Postponing Sexual Involvement (ETR Associates)

  • Available for three age groups
  • Emphasis on delaying sexual activity, comprehensive information
  • Video enhanced, discussion-based format
  • Includes materials for parents

Values and Choices (ETR Associates)

  • A comprehensive sexuality education program for grades 7 and 8
  • Video assisted, discussion-based format
  • Includes parent guide and plans for parent sessions

Teen Outreach (Association of Junior Leagues)

  • Designed for teens at risk of school dropout
  • Adaptable to needs of community
  • Problem solving, decision-making processes and peer support are highlighted

Preventing Adolescent Pregnancy (Girls, Inc.)

  • Designed for girls ages nine and up
  • Comprehensive sexuality program, focus on assertiveness and goal setting for future careers
  • Discussion based, adaptable, includes parent outreach

Protect Teen Health (Girls, Inc.)

  • Designed for teen girls
  • Peer counseling, individually and in groups

Some good materials also are available to help parents initiate conversations about sexuality with their children. A few suggestions include:

Sex: A Conversation With Sol Gordon (3 videos)

How Can I Tell If I'm Really In Love (video)

First Things First (Planned Parenthood) (audiotape and books)

Intervention for Prevention

The following strategies and techniques are only briefly mentioned here. All have immense value and can have significant impact in primary as well as repeat pregnancy prevention efforts.

Teen Parent Panels
Small panels of current or former teen parents share the realities of teen parenting with students in health classes or other settings. Emphasis is on postponement of parenting until adulthood.

Peer Counseling
Teens, including teen parents, are trained in listening and values clarification skills. They meet with students one-on-one to support healthy decisions about sexual behavior.

Male Responsibility
Adults and/or students develop and present common messages stressing responsible sexual decisions and behavior of men. Coaches would be good recruits. In-service training and ongoing support are advised.

Life Options
Improvement and expansion of teens' perception of life options can delay childbearing. Advocacy for local jobs and opportunities for youth require collaboration with the business community.

Cultural Respect
While not a specific strategy, cultural respect must accompany initiatives. Awareness of differences can facilitate a focus on goal-driven behavioral choices.

Innovative Tools (Empathy Belly, Baby Think It Over, Prom Promise)

Use of innovative tools to present particular concepts can be effective and especially useful as single lessons or short units. Notification of parents is recommended. Some resources that are easy to use are:

  • The Empathy Belly
    (Birthways, Seattle, WA)
    This pregnancy simulation suit mimics 20 symptoms of the eighth month of pregnancy. Very engaging, it stimulates thoughtful dialogue.
  • Baby Think It Over
    Life-sized baby dolls of different gendersand ethnicities are programmed to require regular tending, 24 hours a day. Their use requires parent approval and fosters family discussion.

  • Contract Campaigns
    (Prom Promise, True Love Waits, Worth the Wait, Virgin Clubs)
    Popular for its community relations impact, the "contract" campaign asks teens to commit to abstinence from sex and/or drugs. "Prom Promise," for example, is sponsored by insurance companies to reduce alcohol and drug use during prom time. Check the Internet for free promotional materials.

Best Practices.
Central Intermediate Unit and State College Area School District

Pregnant and Parenting Teen Program coordinators plan to use "Baby Think It Over" dolls and teen parent panels as pregnancy prevention services for middle school students.

Contact: Jan Reasinger (814) 359-3069

McDowell High School

An innovative, community/school-created peer teaching program is led by students. Teen parents created a video, "A Day in the Life of a Teen Parent," and present it to all seventh-grade students (with parental permission) during health classes. A follow-up workbook is provided to eighth-grade students in health classes. The information promotes improved self-esteem and decision-making, and provides an awareness of the responsibilities associated with teen parenting.

Contact: Stephanie Williams (814) 835-5478

Reading School District
  The Pregnant and Parenting Teen Program promotes the postponement of repeat pregnancies. Three posters with the heading, "These Students Beat the Statistics," followed by the national statistics of repeat pregnancies, are displayed in the PPT room. Students who have postponed repeat pregnancies are recognized by having their picture taken as they sign and date the poster on their child's birthday.

Contact: Patricia Ross (610) 371-5972

Riverview Intermediate Unit
  The PPT Program coordinates a "Mother/Daughter Program," comprised of two three-hour workshops intended to improve parent/child communication regarding sexual issues.

Contact: Mary Miller (800) 672-7123 X 111

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last updated April 30, 1999

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