“In any given society, at any given moment in history, people become sexual the same way they become anything else. Without much reflection, they pick up directions from their social environment.”
~ John H. Gagnon, Distinguished Professor, Emeritus, Stony Brook University
Professor Gagnon’s statement speaks to one of my biggest questions:
Why does the U.S. have one of the highest teen pregnancy rates of any developed country? Continue reading
Continuing our focus on National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, this week’s post is written by one of FPA’s Pregnancy Prevention Coordinators.
I’ll never forget it. Standing in front of a hundred or so eighth-grade boys, I asked them where they got their information about sex and staying healthy. After an uncomfortable silence, one brave soul shrugged and said “Mostly…from the streets.”
The ‘streets’ he was referring to are lined with oak trees and sidewalks. But, I knew what he meant. I had been asked to speak to that group of boys because the principal discovered an underground condom ring going on within the school. Yep, that’s right. Some entrepreneurial boy realized he could make good money selling condoms to his classmates. The same condoms, mind you, that can be legally obtained in about ten different stores in their town. This makes you wonder…
When I asked them if they had these conversations with an adult at home, they slowly shook their heads. A few gave me a patronizing smile with that “You’re outta your mind, lady.” look. I have posed this question to students before, so I wasn’t surprised by their reaction. But, something about that particular instance has always stuck with me. Continue reading
May is National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month.
Here at the FPA, every day is devoted to the prevention of teen and unplanned pregnancy. Our clinical staff, prevention staff, legislative advocacy staff, and the administrative staff that keep the business side of things going are all committed to helping women and men plan their families and avoid unwanted pregnancy.
But what about all the folks who aren’t doing teen pregnancy prevention work as part of their day job — is there anything the average person can do?
By way of answering that question, I’d like to tell you about Jessie.
After writing last week’s blog post about Sarah, my new teen pregnancy prevention hero, I realized that our readers might not be familiar with the term “evidence-based” as it relates to sexuality education.
I thought I’d write an explanation. But when I found myself mired deeper and deeper in more and more complex terminology, I started to worry.
How could I possibly explain this stuff without putting my readers to sleep?
Then the proverbial light bulb came on and I decided to put together a Top Ten List, a la David Letterman, comparing comprehensive, evidence-based pregnancy prevention programming with abstinence-only-until-marriage education. So, here goes… Continue reading
Last week, I got to spend some time with Sarah Donlin. You probably don’t know Sarah, so let me tell you about her.
Sarah is the Program Coordinator for the Young Parent Program(YPP) of Youth Alternatives Ingraham. Known locally as 22 Park Avenue, YPP is a transitional living program for pregnant and parenting teens and young adults. Sarah’s office overlooks the entryway of the YPP building on the busy corner of Park Avenue and High Street in downtown Portland. Sarah has the daunting task of providing support, supervision and programming for YPP residents and it’s clear, as she talks, that she cares deeply about them.
Sex ed has always been an essential program component of YPP. For years, it was done by outside organizations, until budget cuts meant those organizations could no longer come to 22 Park Avenue to provide the services.
Sarah then found herself trying to offer education that she didn’t really feel qualified to provide. She remembers thinking, “I’m not trained in this. I could talk about using condoms but I didn’t know enough about all the birth control methods and I didn’t want to give them misinformation.”
But Sarah was determined to find a way. After some searching, Sarah connected with the FPA’s Teen Pregnancy Program and she now has the knowledge and skills needed to provide sex ed for 22 Park Avenue residents. Here’s how it happened. Continue reading
Author’s Note: From time to time, On the Front Lines features an FPA program. This week — the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative in Rockland.
Like many Maine communities, Rockland has a teen pregnancy rate higher than the state average. However, while several towns have seen their teen pregnancy rates decrease sharply in the past decade, Rockland is one of the few towns whose rate has remained consistently high — at more than double the state average.
Enter Keegan Ross.
A recent graduate of Rockland District High School, Keegan is a natural leader — he served as Senior Class President and Student Senate Treasurer. Even as a busy senior, Keegan still felt a need to take on another role — to increase awareness about his hometown’s high teen pregnancy rate.
Together with the Student Senate and School Nurse, Ilmi Carter, Keegan organized and spearheaded a week-long project to bring teen pregnancy prevention awareness and education to his fellow students.The awareness week included lunchtime education sessions, an after-school screening of the movie Juno followed by a discussion about teen pregnancy, and a student survey.
Over 300 students completed the survey and the results are really interesting. Sixty-six percent of students say they feel comfortable talking with their parents about sexual health issues. And 77% of students say there is a need for family planning services at their school.
Keegan’s project at Rockland District High School is just one part of a much bigger story. Continue reading
I just read a wonderful article about teen sexual health, written by former U.S. Surgeon General, Jocelyn Elders. In the piece, Dr. Elders discusses adolescent development and makes a case for universal access to contraceptive care for teens and age-appropriate, comprehensive sexuality education for children of all ages.
Early in the article, Dr. Elders makes a bold statement. She says, “efforts to prevent teens from having sex have been largely unsuccessful in stemming sexual activity because teenagers have a hormonal imperative to explore their sexuality.” (emphasis mine)
Whoa! I’ve never heard anyone put it quite so bluntly — hormonal imperative indeed. But Dr. Elders doesn’t stop there; she continues her no-nonsense lesson in adolescent development with the following comments.
Ah, summertime! After a cold, snowy winter and a cool, rainy spring, we’re finally enjoying warm, sunshine-y days. I remember the summers of my childhood in Lewiston — riding my bicycle with friends, paddling around in the city pool, eating Popsicles — trying to keep cool in the brick and concrete heat of my downtown neighborhood.
Fast forward a few years to when I was a boy-crazy, rock-music-loving, hormone-driven teenager. During my teens, summertime meant working extra hours at my job as a waitress in the local department store dinette. Gosh, even the word ‘dinette’ conjures up a simpler time when twenty-five cents bought you a cup of coffee and summer jobs for teens were plentiful.
Fast forward again, 35 years to the summer of 2011, and the outlook for teen employment is bleak. Across the United States, teens seeking entry-level jobs are competing with older Americans who suffered financial losses during the recession and have had to supplement their income. Experts are predicting that only 25% of teens will find employment this summer, down from 45% in 2000.
What, you might ask, do teen unemployment rates have to do with teen pregnancies? Well, if only one out of every four teens will have jobs this summer, I have to wonder — what will the other three out of four teens be doing? Continue reading