Programs and Approaches

Patricia Funderburk Ware
Director of Educational Services
Americans for a Sound AIDS Policy
43879 Amity Place
Ashburn, VA 20147

Good Morning. As I begin my brief presentation I would like to respond to several points most often expressed to me as the primary concerns about the welfare reform grants for abstinence education.

The 50 million dollars allocated in the Welfare Reform Act for abstinence education grants is a lot of money by anyone's standard and should not be taken lightly. However, there are literally hundreds of millions of dollars in state and federal money also available for Family Life Education, HIV/AIDS prevention among adolescents and teen pregnancy prevention that can and is being used for programs that have a strong contraceptive and "safe sex" approach or that combine the abstinence and contraceptive messages. You can confirm this by simply looking at your own state's budget. In comparison to what is already available, this 50 million dollars we are discussing here today may seem to be a relatively small amount.

The point being, the money in the Welfare Reform Bill is but one pot from which to draw when it comes to teen pregnancy prevention. As an administrator and fund-raiser in an HIV/AIDS organization, there are many requests for proposals I cannot take advantage of because the guidelines that determined how that money had to be used are in opposition to the kind of activities my organization believes we should conduct. The same principle holds true for all of us in respect to the Welfare Abstinence Money. If it mandates that a particular philosophy or activity is taught with which you disagree, then there are a number of funding sources available for you to apply from. But for those of us who understand the devastation and hurt to lives experienced by millions of Americans as a result of divorce, out-of-wedlock births, especially to teen parents, and the phenomenal increase in single parent homes, we applaud the government for finally allowing for an opportunity to focus on what we consider to be the heart of many of the problems we are experiencing as a society.

A good deal of this money will be used in economically depressed African American communities, much like the one in which I lived for part of my adult life as a single parent. It is my experience that the marriage message is long overdo and greatly desired in that community. It has been projected that by the year 2000, eighty percent of all minority births will occur out-of-wedlock!! If we are to believe the proliferation of recent data about the DISPROPORTIONATE harm that comes to our children raised in single headed households, then we must do all we can to advocate approaches that help our youth acquire the character traits and skills needed to develop and sustain strong future marriages in which to care for one another and to lovingly raise their children.

Maintaining mutual trust and respect to achieve a healthy marriage with a potential life partner is hard enough. But, it will be even more difficult, if what they essentially know and do as teens, is have a shallow,
quick, uncommitted, physical exchanges they call "making love". As a nation, we must again help them understand how vital healthy marriages are to the preservation of families, protection of the health and well
being of our children and ultimately our society.

Again, my point is: this is but one source of money from which to apply. It is the only one that clearly allows us to do what I believe is essential in ending many of the societal problems facing our nation today.

There have been quote after quote from those prominent and those not so prominent in the teen pregnancy prevention arena, stating that abstinence only programs do not work.

Unfortunately, many of them were simply repeating a quote taken out of context from a report, No Easy Answers: Research Findings on Programs to Reduce Teen Pregnancy, commissioned by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy and conducted by Douglas Kirby, Ph.D. I would like to draw your attention to page 25 of that report and read the quote to which I refer...

"Thus, the weight of evidence indicates that these abstinence programs do not delay the onset of intercourse."
Dr. Kirby is referring to the evaluations of only six abstinence programs he reviewed. His very next sentence, though seldom quoted with the one I just read, says this:
"On the other hand, this evidence is not conclusive, because all but one of these evaluations had significant methodological limitations that could have obscured program impact."
In other words, Dr. Kirby is saying that the few programs he reviewed were so poorly evaluated, in his opinion, that he could not tell whether they really worked or not.

With all due respect to Dr. Kirby, he seriously contradicted himself by making such a strong conclusive statement about the FAILURE OF THESE PROGRAMS. By doing so, he, unfortunately, gave opponents of the abstinence approach the opportunity to misrepresent the facts by intentionally taking his quote out of context.

So, just be discerning when you listen to any of us experts. Do some research on your own as objectively as you can.

ABSTINENCE PROGRAMS AND APPROACHES

A few years ago, the organization I work for, Americans for a Sound AIDS/HIV Policy (ASAP), received an extraordinary number of requests for abstinence education information. They came from a diversity of sources such as local governments, public and private schools, healthcare agencies, and community based organizations. As a result, ASAP undertook a project to develop a directory of abstinence resources, including listings and in depth description of curricula, videos, brochures, other supplemental materials and speakers. We received nearly fifty curricula, eighty-five videos, and resumes from twenty-five speakers who regularly tour speaking to young people about delaying sex. ASAP's review panel approved about twenty curricula, thirty videos, and twenty speakers for inclusion in the directory.

COMPONENTS OF ABSTINENCE CURRICULA

The curricula we reviewed were extremely diverse in the primary focus (i.e. career development, academic achievement, parent or peer mentoring). Other variations were in the number and length of sessions, target age groups, and settings (i.e. in-home, school, church, after school community agencies) in which the curriculum can be used. The majority of the curricula contained all or most of the following components:

1. The belief that sex is good, it is the abuse of sex that causes the problems.

2. Clear, accurate, well documented and age appropriate facts about the advantages of delaying sexual activity.

3. Basic skills development that empower teens to resist peer pressure to be sexually active.

4. Essentials in insuring ongoing support from parents, peers, teachers, school administrators and other adults in the teens' environment to help them follow through on their choice to abstain.

5. Development of character traits which stress universal values such as respect for self and others, personal responsibility, delaying self-gratification, self control, EMPATHY and so forth.

6. Alternative activities..."something to say yes to as they are saying no to sex, drugs, alcohol, tobacco and violence."

7. Directive in its method of teaching.

8. Easily adopted to a diversity of cultures.

9. Promotes traditional definition of abstinence that does not encourage involvement in any form of intimate sexual activity between partners.

All of these components can be in place. However, to insure the most effective outcomes, the program must HAVE TOTAL COMMITMENT AND ENTHUSIASM OF THE ABSTINENCE INSTRUCTOR. If the teacher does not believe in the message it will be extremely difficult to convey it to achieve the desired outcomes. In addition, the abstinence message is not limited to pre-teens or younger teens. It MUST BE GIVEN OVER A SUSTAINED PERIOD OF TIME AND REPEATED THROUGHOUT THE YOUTH'S TEEN YEARS.

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