Affecting Michigan's Public Policy on Teen Pregnancy
This program strives to accomplish the Global Project on Youth's mission of addressing the translation from research to practice and making research applicable to policy makers through connecting similarly positioned Michigan communities addressing teen pregnancy.
The Teen Pregnancy Prevention collaboratory includes representatives of business, non-profit agencies, unions, neighborhood centers, criminal justice, schools, faith-based organizations, and citizens who share the desire that "our daughters not become pregnant while they are still children." Toward this end, these partners work to build agreement around the group's highest aspirations rather than least common denominator compromises. They also accept multiple strategies in order to achieve a focused community impact on teen pregnancy. This principle rests on the community's belief that no one strategy alone will be universally effective in addressing this complex problem. That is, the collaboratory partners believe that neither abstinence programs nor comprehensive human sexuality education will be able to reduce teen pregnancy by itself. However, these strategies together with others including youth asset building and service learning can have a positive effect on the teen pregnancy rate. They also use a broad range of technology capacities to enhance communication, education, mapping (needs and asset) and measurements.
In 2004, the Teen Pregnancy Prevention collaboratory has broadened to other communities the lessons learned in Battle Creek regarding teen pregnancy prevention. This collaboratory began work in Muskegeon and Wayne Counties, two other communities in Michigan with high rates of teen pregnancy. Building community ownership and identifying leadership for teen pregnancy prevention will be critical to advancing the work in Muskegeon. Romulus (Wayne County) has organized a teen pregnancy partnership with Romulus schools and selected a Chair for the partnership.
The collaboratory partners were also interested in learning more about the attitudes of youth toward teen pregnancy and which prevention strategies are most likely to be effective. A study called, "Identifying Middle School Students' Knowledge and Attitudes about Teen Pregnancy" was conducted by Evaluation & Measurement Specialties, Inc. Two hundred local students from grades 6, 7, & 8 were surveyed. Results were that:
Results also indicated that more than half of students believed that it was possible to influence teens' intentions regarding sexual activity. With regard to teen pregnancy prevention strategies, the respondents indicated that:
Additionally, the Battle Creek community has leveraged their growing systems understanding toward addressing a significant underlying causal factor in teen pregnancy, community literacy. New partners in this endeavor include eight school district superintendents, the City of Battle Creek, the Salvation Army, and the University of Michigan School of Education, Department of Psychology, and School of Literature, Science, and the Arts. A press conference announcing the start of the School-Parent-Community partnership to improve community literacy was held in December 2004 and included the participation of the President of the Michigan Senate. Senator Mark Shauer endorsed the collaborative and vowed to assist in every way he could, including pushing for policy change at the state level.
Functional illiteracy is a critical problem in Battle Creek. Community-wide, 22% of adults read at or below a seventh grade level. Fourth grade MEAP results reveal that 30% of the children in Battle Creek fail to read at a fourth grade proficiency level. The community-wide literacy plan will prepare the youngest in the community to enter school prepared to learn. The plan also aims to improve the lives of those now held back by illiteracy and to strengthen the community through literacy efforts that will improve job skills and the ability of adults to function in an increasingly complex technology based environment. In an exciting recent development, partners involved in this collaboratory have been awarded a $1.02 million W.K. Kellogg Foundation grant to improve reading and writing skills at elementary schools in Lakeview and Battle Creek.
The work done in 2004 is the result of an expanded focus which includes both teen pregnancy and community literacy. As these problems intersect, simultaneous work on both issues in the coming year will yield interconnected community solutions that will have a deeper and longer-term impact. That is, the collaboratory is moving from addressing an issue across systems and as an isolated problem to addressing it at its root cause, bringing it to a greater level of comprehensiveness.
The collaboratory has been able to leverage other funding and/or in-kind support to sustain its work from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the City of Battle Creek, the Calhoun County Health Department, Kellogg Community College, Battle Creek Community Foundation, and others. These opportunities will allow the collaboratory to develop a Community Support Organization to support the work of the collaboratory on teen pregnancy, community literacy, and other issues with regular, full time staff. The staff of the community support organization would ensure that efforts continue by managing data, tracking records, and maintaining communications between agencies.
Last updated: 04/28/05
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