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Teen Talk: "Defining Up" Expectations of Teens

Posted By Collette Caprara On September 7, 2010 @ 12:00 pm In Culture | Comments Disabled

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A recent comment by actress Jennifer Aniston that “women are more and more realizing that they don’t have to settle with a man just to have that child” might seem to indicate that deviancy has irrevocably been “defined down” and that a culture of permissiveness has been permanently entrenched in our nation’s society.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that the percentage of teens who believe that it’s okay for an unmarried female to have a child [2] has increased to nearly 64 percent (among males) and to more than 70 percent (among females.

Yet throughout the country there are oases of excellence that provide evidence to the contrary.

One example is Teen Talk, a program for at-risk adolescent girls that was initiated by a community-based project in Milwaukee called the Family House. Though the Family House was primarily and originally established to provide hospice care for the low-income elderly, the project evolved to meet needs of others in the community, including the youths who would gather on the front steps in after-school hours.

“When we started the program in 2004, Milwaukee had the highest rate of teen pregnancies in the nation, and there was a rash of STDs at the elementary school that was just a block from the Family House,” said Vicky Edwards, Teen Talk’s first coordinator. “Some of those girls were having babies just because they were looking to be loved and wanted someone to love. But when their babies started growing up, the responsibility and reality of motherhood set in.”

“We had an after-school program, and we were seeing so many of our 13- and 14-year-olds becoming pregnant. And we were finding out that they weren’t getting any medical care and didn’t know what to expect,” said Cordelia Taylor, the founder and director of the Family House.

Teen Talk helps pregnant teens access the care, nutrition, and information they need. In addition, it prepares the girls to make wise life choices through conversations about the benefits of remaining abstinent and how to resist unwanted sexual advances.

The outreach also includes peer counseling, field trips, visits to museums, outings to restaurants (where they receive etiquette tips), a fashion show at a local department store, and movie dates followed by discussion groups—all of which contributes to greater self-esteem and a larger vision for their future.

Teen Talk began with a group of 17 adolescents in 2004. To date, more than 170 teens have participated in the program. Of those, only two became pregnant. Those two young women stayed in touch with the program and came back to serve as peer counselors.

Teen Talk participants were young women who lived in high-crime, drug-infested neighborhoods where the odds were clearly against them. Some lived with their grandmothers because their own mothers were incarcerated or addicted to drugs. The expectations and attitudes they embrace provide hope that the bar can be set higher for peers in much less daunting situations as well.

Here’s hoping for high-profile voices to champion successes like Teen Talk that are teaching responsibility, affirming the significance of marriage, and restoring community.


Article printed from The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation: http://blog.heritage.org

URL to article: http://blog.heritage.org/2010/09/07/teen-talk-defining-up-expectations-of-teens/

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[1] Image: http://www.foundry.org/wp-content/uploads/Jennifer-Anniston.jpg

[2] unmarried female to have a child: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_23/sr23_030.pdf

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