Teen birth rates in the United States are at a record low, dropping below 18 births per 1,000 females ages 15 to 19 for the first time since the government began regularly collecting data on this group. In fact, the birth rate was less than half of what it had been in 2008. But despite these rapid declines across all major racial and ethnic groups, disparities still exist. The birth rate for Hispanic and Black teens remains almost double the rate among white teens.
A curriculum to educate and bring positive change
Hoyleton Youth & Family Services continues to work throughout communities in central and southern Illinois to teach young people pregnancy prevention and healthy lifestyle choices. “Our teen pregnancy prevention program is a community-based program that provides education about adolescent relationships, self-esteem, and safe sex methods,” says Shannon Boyer, Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) Specialist. “The curriculum is delivered over a series of weeks and seeks to empower young people to make informed decisions.”
Funded by the Illinois Department of Human Services, the program is brought to schools and community groups by the Hoyleton team, who facilitates sessions using evidence-based curricula. “With the pandemic continuing, we have been able to pivot and provide sessions in different ways, including virtually, to meet the needs of those we support,” says Shannon.
Along with the program, Hoyleton also created a resource guide for youth and their parents to provide contact information to local community partners that also support many of the topics discussed. “We also want to make sure that caregivers reinforce many of the key talking points we provide,” says Shannon. “We provide online resources and discussion topics to bring up with the youth as a supplement...”
Grant awarded to further reinforce and strengthen services
To further strengthen their work in this area, Hoyleton also applied for a grant from the Department of Health and Human Services. “T1P1 (Tier 1 Phase 1) is a pilot program that is set up for providers in Illinois to replicate programs that have been proven effective to reduce teenage pregnancy,” says Kristen Shinn, Director of Community Support Services. “By doing this initial research, we can identify how to bring effective programs to scale and build the knowledge-based on understanding what elements and factors are important to broad program success.”
Hoyleton was awarded the grant, which gives them specific curriculums to provide to vulnerable teen populations. Curriculums include Promoting Health Among Teens and Love Notes 3.0 Evidence-Based Program. These programs will join the other curriculums, Making Proud Choices, and Be Proud! Be Responsible, that the agency uses to educate young people.
The new evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention curriculums are very similar to the education Hoyleton provides through its Teen Pregnancy Prevention- Personal Responsibility Education Program. “We currently provide the Teen Pregnancy Prevention program to residential facilities in the central and southern Illinois region. With the new T1P1 Program, we will now go into middle and high schools as well as alternate schools and community-based settings in St. Clair County to facilitate the curriculums,” says Kristen. “It really reinforces and strengthens the work we are already doing in our communities to make real change.”
Paving a way forward to remove stigma and provide support
“We see so often how schools and parents set an expectation that the other will provide this needed education to youth,” says Shannon. “We want to remove the stigma and normalize the conversation so it can be discussed in a safe and comfortable environment as well as give them resources for additional information. We encourage schools and parents to provide a safe space to have these discussions with youth.”
“Our goal is to continue to grow our programs into other communities so we can best provide the education youth need to make smart decisions and to protect themselves,” says Kristen. “And so much of this is made possible by the tremendous support and partnerships we have with local schools and community groups.”
To learn more about Hoyleton’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention programs and how they can partner with your school or group, please visit: https://hoyleton.org/programs/community-outreach/teen-pregnancy-prevention/