Approximate Read Time: ~9 minutes
This is a tense time for over 80 organizations working to reduce teen pregnancy and promote optimal adolescent health around the United States and its territories. On June 30th, a three-year funding cycle from the Office of Population Affairs (OPA) ends. In early Spring these organizations, and many others, competed for a limited number of teen pregnancy prevention grants in a new OPA funding cycle. As their funding ends in just a few days, each is anxiously awaiting news to learn if they will be funded as part of this new cycle. Today we want to give a shout-out to all of those grantees that have been working so diligently and faithfully in this work. Specifically, we want to highlight two we’ve had the privilege to work with throughout the past three years.
An Extremely Brief and Incomplete Overview of U.S. Teen Pregnancy Prevention Efforts
For decades, the research on teen pregnancy in the U.S. has painted a clear picture of the risks associated with teenage childbirth. Teen pregnancy and birth contribute to high school dropout rates among girls. The children of teenage mothers are more likely to have lower school achievement, also dropout of high school, have more health problems, be incarcerated at some point during their youth, face unemployment as young adults, and perpetuate the cycle by giving birth during their teenage years, too. These are just a handful of the social, economic, and health costs of teen pregnancy.
Still, the teen birth rate has been declining since 1991 and it hasn’t been by chance. Since the 1990s many states and the Federal government have made major and continued investments in teen pregnancy prevention. Since the 1990’s, through a series of grant cycles, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), the Office on Adolescent Health, the Family and Youth Services Bureau, and the Office of Population Affairs have been working with organizations like these 80+ to address teen pregnancy through direct service programming, evaluation, and research and development of more effective interventions. To be clear, the teen pregnancy and teen birth rate has not been going down because of abortion – contrary to what some critics might say. Today abortion rates for young women 15 to 17 and 18-19 are the lowest they’ve been since 1973.
Our founder partner, Tom Klaus, was present at the beginning of the decline in teen pregnancy and birth rates in the early 1990s when the state of Iowa was among the first to make major investments in preventing teen pregnancy. Tom worked with the Young Women’s Resource Center in Des Moines, Iowa to develop and replicate nationally a classroom-based program that emphasized shared responsibility in relationships as a strategy for reducing teen pregnancy. He moved to Washington, DC in 2005 to work with Advocates for Youth on some of the early CDC national efforts to reduce teen pregnancy. Though he has moved out of direct service, Tom, now joined by his son and principal partner, Jakob, has continued to work with numerous organizations funded by OPA which do the work of teen pregnancy prevention – including two we’d like to feature here today – the Community Action Corporation of South Texas (CACOST) and Project Vida.
CACOST’s South Texas Teen Leadership Development Program
April Anzaldua and Berta Longoria have been providing outstanding leadership to the South Texas Teen Leadership Development (STTLD) program for several years. Over the past three years of the current OPA grant cycle the STTLD program has provided two evidence-based programs, Teen Outreach Program and Love Notes, to schools in several counties around and near their home base in Alice, Texas as well as linkages to partners and the organization’s health clinics. The STTLD program serves a very rural population and staff must travel many miles to schools to provide programming and to engage with parents and the broader communities. April, Berta, and the team have built a compelling reputation and following for STTLD in the communities and schools they serve. They, and their team, through hard work, dedication to providing high quality programming, and steady relationship building with students, school administrators, and parents have made a lasting contribution to the health and well-being of youth in South Texas. It has been our privilege to work with them over the past three years to conduct performance evaluation on the STTLD program and to help them incorporate elements of the Tenacious Change Approach into their work.
Project Vida’s Be You Program
Aida Ponce and Carmen Zúñiga have been giving extraordinary leadership to teen pregnancy prevention efforts through Project Vida’s Be You Program along with a host of others, including Miriam Vazquez, Reyna Castillo, Sandra Rodriguez, and Alejandra Gaytan. As a part of this OPA project, Project Vida has been working closely with several school districts in and around El Paso, Texas to provide the evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs, Positive Potential and Positive Prevention Plus, and linkages to health services at its clinic. In addition to this, the Project Vida team has been helping and guiding schools in their efforts to support and help students who are facing challenging mental or emotional health issues. Over the past year Project Vida has been working on an innovative approach to help schools create safer emotional spaces for school personnel and students. Project Vida’s Be You Program is a reminder that teen pregnancy is not just about biology…it is also about emotions and overall well-being. We have had the privilege of working with Project Vida to implement elements of the Tenacious Change Approach into their work and, over the past year, in the development of that new, innovative approach to safer emotional spaces in schools.
For the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic we had the opportunity to be on-site with both the STTLD program and Project Vida in May. We had the opportunity to attend STTLD’s annual Parent and Teen Summit in San Diego, Texas. It was a packed day of fun, outstanding speakers, and learning about resources for both parents and youth in attendance. Tom got to spend a day in El Paso with Aida, Carmen, Miriam, Reyna, and Sandra celebrating the successes of their work and thinking through possibilities and opportunities for the future.
It should be obvious, but we’ll say it anyway…the pandemic took a significant toll on the efforts of both CACOST’s STTLD and Project Vida’s Be You programs. It directly and profoundly impacted their work with students and the communities. However, both of these organizations and their programs were resilient in the face of the pandemic disruption. And they shined!
We’re enormously proud of the work STTLD and Be You have done in their communities. We are honored to have played any part in their success and to call them our clients and our friends. Our fingers are crossed with them that their applications for renewal will be successful!
What Controversies are Bubbling in Your World?
Please follow this link (or click on the button below) to complete a brief Google form where you can tell us.
- What controversies are emerging that you might be able to head off?
- What controversies are you actually facing at this time?
- Can you share a situation with us that we can turn into an anonymous “case study” and explore in an upcoming blog?
- What specific questions do you have about preparing for controversy or managing controversy?
Remember, you can also access our video Preparing for Controversy in the Fog of (Culture) War on our website and we also offer a day-long training event on managing controversy – on-site or online.
The Difference in One Minute: Small by Design
At Tenacious Change we are small by design. We know, that sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Because “bigger” is supposed to be better. The truth is, bigger isn’t always better because when you hire a large consulting firm it becomes easier to get lost as “just another” client and then receive recycled solutions not tailored for your unique situation. By being small by design, we are more accessible to even the smallest organizations. We have greater flexibility to work with organizations and businesses of all sizes. We can keep our overhead to a minimum. Our fulltime staff is only two, but we have a robust list of specialists and subcontractors we can call upon as needed. Most importantly, we can work closely with you to find solutions that really fit with your situation.
Preparing for Controversy in the Fog of (Culture) War does not hold all the answers but it has some that will be helpful. It will help you understand:
- the difference between a controversy and a conflict
- the stages of conflict
- the cycle of intractable conflict
- the value and importance of Strategic Controversy Management
- when to intervene so that a controversy does not become a conflict
- how to slow or stop a controversy, even a conflict, when it occurs
Ninety-one percent (91%) of people completing the evaluation after the April 2023 seminar told us they felt more confident in their ability to manage controversy as a result of participating in the seminar. Specifically, here’s what they told us how they benefited most from it:
- Five big steps in controversy management.
- The rules of civil conversation.
- Understanding how controversy and conflict are different now from the 90’s and understanding where and how conflict can be deterred.
- Learning about when more people are likely to “get on-board” with your issue. This helped me think about where my energy and efforts can be used more effectively.
- Tom’s historical observations about the Culture War and how things have changed…or not changed.
- The cycle of intractable conflict.
In addition to the video, there are downloadable PDF resources. All are available at no cost, though you will be asked to sign a guest book before accessing the video and downloads.
Click on the link below to see a brief trailer video and then access the full video and all resources.