The Childrenís Aid Society Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program has enjoyed over ten years of success and counting. While we never equate our program as a quick-fix to the issue of adolescent pregnancy, we do like to measure our success. In addition to the following article, the most up-to-date articles can be viewed on the Childrenís Aid Society web site.
Democratic Leadership Council
July 19, 2022
New Dem Play | Preventing teen pregnancy through community-based programs
Where It's Working | Michigan, Maryland, Texas, Indiana, California, Florida, New York, Delaware, St. Louis, and New Orleans, and others
Players | State and local officials
| More Social & Family Policy Plays
Since the landmark welfare reform act of 1996, the nation has witnessed remarkable progress in promoting work and reducing dependency. While caseloads dropped by more than one-half, work rates increased to record levels and more recipients than ever found both the dignity of a job and the prospect of self-sufficiency within their reach.
While these successes deserve praise, the job of welfare reform will not be complete unless policymakers can stem the root causes of poverty and dependency. And the most significant root cause, perhaps, is unwed childbearing. Research shows that progress the nation makes on reducing teen pregnancy contributes directly to the reduction of child poverty and the number of children living with single mothers (see http://www.teenpregnancy.org/whycare/whatif.asp).
|"...The combination of single motherhood and teenage years is a recipe for children growing up in poverty without proper health care, nutrition, or nurturing."
-- U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York
Unwed childbearing, and in particular teen pregnancy, can devastate a young woman's economic prospects, not to mention the economic, educational, and health prospects of her children. The child of an unwed teen high school dropout is nine times more likely than the child of a wed adult high school graduate to live in poverty, according to researchers Nick Zill and Kevin O'Donnell. Moreover, only one in three teen moms finishes high school, and nearly four out of five end up on public assistance.
Teen birth rates have declined by 33 percent since 1991, in all states and among all ethnic and racial groups. Still, the United States has higher teen pregnancy and teen birth rates than any other highly industrialized country in the world. In fact, one in three teenage girls in the United States will be pregnant at least once before the age of 20.
The good news, however, is that teen pregnancy prevention programs can and do work, and a growing body of research has begun to isolate the most effective program models that policymakers should replicate. Among these proven approaches:
- Sex education programs. Polling has shown that adults and children agree that school students should be strongly encouraged to delay sex. Three-quarters of adults also agree that young people should be provided with information about contraception. Public opinion, in this case, happens to be aligned with best practice, since it is the abstinence-plus-contraception educational programs that have demonstrated success at reducing teen pregnancy. Although many schools provide abstinence-only sex education programs, mounting research indicates that "abstinence-first" programs -- programs that place strong emphasis on abstinence but also discuss contraception -- are most effective in reducing teen pregnancy. Take, for example, the Aban Aya Youth Project curriculum, which was first implemented in Chicago. Aban Aya is a program for African-American boys that addresses issues of violence, drugs, as well as sex through an "abstinence-first" curriculum. Compared to a control group, participating boys reported less sexual activity as well as higher contraceptive use. Ten to fifteen percent more participating boys were using condoms by the end of the program than boys who did not go through the program at all.
- Youth development. Perhaps the most successful teen pregnancy prevention programs evaluated to date are those that combine sex education with a focus on youth development. The seminal program based on this model is the Children's Aid Society-Carrera Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, first begun in New York and now in a number of states across the country.
The Carrera program offers pre-teens and teens a full range of services besides basic education, including help with school, employment assistance, sports and other recreational activities, and access to mental health, medical, and dental services. Participants are enrolled earlyat the age of 11 or 12and stay with the program until they graduate from high school. Research has found that Carrera participants are less likely to become pregnant, more likely to delay intercourse, and more likely to use contraception than non-participating teens. Moreover, the benefits of the program extend beyond teen pregnancy prevention: Carrera participants also do better in school.
- Service learning. There is also strong evidence that service learning programs have a powerful impact on reducing teen pregnancy among youth who serve. They include a combination of voluntary or unpaid service in the community and structured time for the youth to prepare and reflect on the experience before, during, and after service. One particular service learning model is the "Teen Outreach Program" (TOP) which has had especially impressive results. One study of TOP found that, among participating students, there is an 11 percent lower rate of course failure, an 11 percent lower rate of suspension, a 60 percent reduced drop-out rate, and a 33 percent lower rate of teen pregnancy -- all regardless of race, socioeconomic status, or grade level. There are currently 13,000 young people participating in 176 sites where TOP operates, including New York City, New Orleans, St. Louis, and in cities across California and Florida.
- Media campaigns. A critical aspect of teen pregnancy prevention is countering the glamorization of teenage sex and single parenthood by popular culture and the entertainment industry. One innovative effort to "fight fire with fire" is the combination of public service announcements and education used by the "Not Me, Not Now" campaign in seven states and more than two-dozen localities. Pioneered by Monroe County, N.Y., policymakers and nonprofit leaders, the initiative primarily targets pre-teens and teens between nine and 14 years old. The campaign relies on posters in schools, ads in movie theaters, and an especially promising education program called "Bright Futures," in which high school students are trained to teach younger students about how to resist peer pressure to have sex. A recent evaluation of the program included a survey of middle-school students, and found that the program had dramatically affected students' awareness and their attitudes and behavior toward early sex and teen pregnancy.
- Parental Involvement. In addition to curriculum-based programs, policymakers must also reach out to the parents of teens and pre-teens. American parents must be given the tools and support that will enable them to talk competently to their children about sex. Governor Jennifer Granholm of Michigan has piloted a program in her state called Talk Early and Talk Often, which is still in its nascent phase. The idea is to provide parents, through training sessions, town hall meetings, and web resources, with the information they need to comfortably discuss premarital sex with their children.
In addition to drawing ideas from these programs, state and local policymakers should review the New Democrat initiatives developed at the federal level, particularly those proposed in the Strengthening Families Act of 2003 (S. 657). Sponsored by Sens. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) and Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), the bill sets a national goal of reducing teen pregnancy by 33 percent during the next decade. Additionally, the bill underscores the importance of learning from one another by calling for a national resource center for best practices. Similar provisions were also included in S. 1443, the "Building on Welfare Success Act of 2003" introduced by Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), along with co-sponsors Sens. Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Susan Collins (R-ME). This resource center was later offered as an amendment by Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and included in the welfare reform reauthorization bill approved by the Senate Finance Committee in March 2005. For a complete list of pending legislation related to teen pregnancy, visit:
There are clearly many initiatives state and local policymakers can draw from to reduce teen pregnancy, and ultimately, poverty and dependency. It is time for leaders at every level of government to draw from past successes and implement ambitious and effective prevention programs.
Resources for Action
National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy
Children's Aid Society-Carrera Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program
Not Me, Not Now Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program
Strengthening Families Act of 2003, Senate Bill 657
Legislation Related to Teen Pregnancy Prevention
Congress Passes Legislation Modeled on Bayh's Responsible Fatherhood Act, Press Release, U.S. Senator Evan Bayh
Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program, The Children's Aid Society
Teen Outreach Program
"Talk Early and Talk Often," Michigan Parent Resources
Dr. Douglas Kirby, Emerging Answers: Research Findings on Programs to Reduce Teen Pregnancy, May 2001
Will Marshall and Anne Kim, Finishing the Welfare Revolution, A Blueprint for TANF Renewal, January 22, 2023
"What Works," The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, May 2006.
Anne Kim, Now ... Something Worth Spending On, Progressive Policy Institute, March 27, 2023
Barbara Dafoe Whitehead and Marline Pearson, "Making a Love Connection: Teen Relationships, Pregnancy, and Marriage," National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 2006
JS Santelli, et al., "Can changes in sexual behaviors among high school students explain the decline in teen pregnancy rates in the 1990s?" Journal of Adolescent Health (35: August 2004) 80-90.
Not Me Not Now
40 Wildbriar Road
Rochester, NY 14623
Dr. Michael Carrera, EdD
National Adolescent Sexuality Training Center
350 East 88th Street
New York, NY 10128
National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy
1776 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 478-8588 (fax)
Talk Early & Talk Often
27820 Berrywood Lane #3
Farmington Hills, Michigan 48334
Education, Social and Family Policy
Progressive Policy Institute
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, Suite 400
Washington, DC 20003
(202) 544-0054 (fax)