Pregnancy focus not solely on teenagers
The National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Campaign was launched in the United States and parts of Europe in May 1996. Teen Services joined forces with the national campaign in 1998 because the number of referrals for teen pregnancy to the agency had increased. Thus, this year we are celebrating 20 years since launching the initial campaign in Bermuda.
The purpose of the campaign was to lower the number of teen pregnancies around the world by raising awareness of teen pregnancy prevention and providing teens and their families with the tools to identify at-risk situations.
For the past 20 years, Teen Services has recognised the month of May as Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month and each year has hosted a proclamation ceremony on the first Wednesday, followed by presentations and workshops. Teen Services has also partnered with the schools, namely CedarBridge Academy, the Berkeley Institute and Dellwood Middle School, and provided support groups once per week for at-risk girls. The groups focused on self-esteem, wise choices, refusal skills, healthy versus at-risk behaviours, prevention of teen pregnancy, and drug and alcohol abuse. The social workers also provided a support group for teen mothers, who continued their education in the public-school system.
Since the campaign was launched, teen pregnancy in the US decreased and this trend has also been the experience in Bermuda. To this end, the national campaign shifted focus from prevention of teen pregnancy to unplanned pregnancy among teens and young adult women between the ages of 20 and 30. It was concluded that unplanned pregnancies led teens and young women to make difficult decisions on many levels. To this end, the national campaign changed its name to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancies.
According to the statistics in Bermuda from Teen Services, the Maternal Health Clinic and the Department of Statistics, unplanned pregnancy is on the rise among young adult women rather than teens. The statistics also showed that there was a higher number of sexually transmitted infections among persons between 20 and 29 years of age. It is the opinion of Teen Services that teen pregnancy is still an issue, but based on today’s economy and social trends, there tends to be more complex issues that arise with young adult women, who fall in the categories that follow:
• Poverty or lower class
• Homeless or temporary housing — moving from house to house
• Underemployed or unemployed
• Dependent on financial assistance and other support agencies
• Minimum education
• Experienced or exposed to domestic violence
• Experienced or exposed to drug and alcohol abuse
• Mental health issues
This vulnerable population that experience unplanned pregnancies require comprehensive services to ensure healthy living for both mother and child. The goal would be to stabilise the family and empower them to live independently from the social service systems.
The cycle must be broken.
According to Teen Services, this is an awesome task and it would require a team of multi-disciplines — educators, social workers, physicians, mental health workers, employment training programmes, a host of opportunities in employment, housing, medical care and daycare — to encourage teens and young adult women to preserve their families and, most of all, their dignity.
Teen Services’ mandate is to provide services for females between 11 and 25. We will continue to provide prevention-focused services and aftercare services for females and their families who require assistance.
Teen Services recognises the teen pregnancy rate has lowered and concludes that 20 years of raising awareness of teen pregnancy prevention and providing prevention-focused mediums in the schools, churches and organisations has contributed to the reduction of teen pregnancy in Bermuda. It must be noted that other organisations have also played a part in raising awareness of at-risk behaviours.
After all, it takes a village.
• Michelle Wade is the director of Teen Services, which was founded in 1967 to address the needs of teenage mothers. The charity provides counselling and support to Bermuda’s youth with a focus on at-risk girls. It also runs the residential treatment programme Teen Haven for homeless pregnant teens, teen mothers, young women between the ages of 16 and 25, and their children
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