Teenage preg­nancy pro­gram faces ax

Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to end fund­ing next year

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By An­thony Man Staff writer

A pro­gram aimed at re­duc­ing the num­ber of teen preg­nan­cies in Broward County is fac­ing elim­i­na­tion be­cause of a Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion de­ci­sion to end fund­ing for the ef­forts.

New­ton Sanon, pres­i­dent and CEO of the or­ga­ni­za­tion that runs the pro­gram in Broward, said it serves 5,300 teens a year, re­duces the num­ber of teen preg­nan­cies — and in the long run saves the govern­ment more than the $1.25 mil­lion an­nual cost.

“We can re­ally pay it for­ward by this in­vest­ment,” Sanon said. “I can’t stress it enough that this is an in­vest­ment we need to make.”

Like other grant re­cip­i­ents na­tion­wide, Sanon said his or­ga­ni­za­tion, OIC of South Florida, has been no­ti­fied by the De­part­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices that the fund­ing will end next year — half­way through the fed­eral govern­ment’s orig­i­nal com­mit­ment of five years.

A spokes­woman for the fed­eral agency con­firmed the move. “All of these grantees were given a project end date of June 30, 2018, al­low­ing the grantees an op­por­tu­nity to ad­just their

pro­gram and plan for an or­derly close-out,” she said via email.

“If this pro­gram ends, I can tell you for sure right now that there will be a lot of kids who will be preg­nant at an early age. There will be a lot of kids un­e­d­u­cated about STDs and HIV and how to pro­tect them­selves,” said Daniela Em­brack, of Fort Laud­erdale. Em­brack, 18, grad­u­ated last month from Hal­lan­dale High School where she par­tic­i­pated in the pro­gram.

The Health and Hu­man Ser­vices De­part­ment said the OIC grant was among 81 na­tion­wide to­tal­ing $89 mil­lion. Em­brack said money isn’t the most im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tion. “Can you put a price on some­body’s life?” she said. “I don’t think you can . ... Think about it as if that were your child.”

There are po­lit­i­cal el­e­ments to the de­ci­sion. The pro­gram was started un­der for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama. OIC of South Florida got its first grant in 2010 and is now part­way through the sec­ond give-year grant.

The Obama-era pro­grams don’t have to make ab­sti­nence their only pitch. The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has a dif­fer­ent view.

Trump’s sec­re­tary of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices, Tom Price, a physi­cian and for­mer mem­ber of Congress from Ge­or­gia, is a con­ser­va­tive on so­cial is­sues.

Va­lerie Hu­ber, a prom­i­nent leader of the ab­sti­nence-only sex ed­u­ca­tion move­ment, is the new chief of staff in the Of­fice of the As­sis­tant Sec­re­tary for Health, ac­cord­ing to the As­so­ci­ated Press, which re­ported that since 2007 she had been leader of the Na­tional Ab­sti­nence Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion, which re­cently re­named it­self as As­cend. Be­fore that, she served as the ab­sti­nence ed­u­ca­tion co­or­di­na­tor for the state of Ohio. She’s been a critic of the pro­gram now be­ing elim­i­nated.

Teresa Man­ning, the de­part­ment’s deputy as­sis­tant sec­re­tary for pop­u­la­tion af­fairs, a for­mer Na­tional Right to Life Com­mit­tee lob­by­ist, has been crit­i­cal of some con­tra­cep­tive mea­sures, the Wash­ing­ton Post re­ported.

Sanon said ab­sti­nenceonly pro­grams don’t work. “You can only sit there and talk about ‘don’t have sex, don’t have sex’ so many times for young peo­ple,” he said. “We’d be naïve to think they’re not go­ing to do it at all. We all were young kids and we didn’t all make the best de­ci­sions. We cre­ate a del­i­cate bal­ance. We pro­mote be­ing re­spon­si­ble. Strictly ab­sti­nence is not re­al­is­tic.”

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, a Broward-Palm Beach County Demo­crat who rep­re­sents many of the com­mu­ni­ties where OIC of South Florida does most of its work, de­cried the fund­ing cut­off.

“Af­ter decades of progress to­ward re­duced preg­nancy rates and health­ier teens, this ad­min­is­tra­tion is try­ing to drag our coun­try back in time,” Deutch said in a writ­ten state­ment. “The Trump Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s de­ci­sion to can­cel fund­ing isn’t good pol­icy; pre­ven­tion and com­pre­hen­sive sex ed­u­ca­tion works. This is noth­ing more than an at­tack on the health and fi­nan­cial se­cu­rity of teens who would have ben­e­fited so much from ac­cess to pro­grams like Project PAUSE.”

OIC, which stands for Op­por­tu­ni­ties In­dus­tri­al­iza­tion Cen­ters, uses acro­nym PAUSE, which stands for pre­vent­ing preg­nancy, sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted dis­eases and HIV; achiev­ing aca­demic and per­sonal goals; un­der­stand­ing the risks of un­pro­tected sex; suc­ceed­ing in their en­deav­ors and ed­u­cat­ing the com­mu­nity and other teens.

The teen preg­nancy pro­gram is tar­geted at teens in 13 ZIP codes that in­clude parts of Dania Beach, Deer­field Beach, Fort Laud­erdale, Hol­ly­wood, Lauder­hill, North Laud­erdale and Pom­pano Beach.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion’s over­all mis­sion is help­ing peo­ple get job train­ing and jobs. Its flag­ship pro­gram is help­ing peo­ple reen­ter so­ci­ety and get paid em­ploy­ment af­ter they’ve been re­leased from prison.

Sanon said the teen preg­nancy pre­ven­tion pro­gram takes mul­ti­ple ap­proaches. Teens are shown what hap­pens when they be­come par­ents, some­thing that of­ten means an in­com­plete ed­u­ca­tion, lousy jobs and, some­times, crime. “This vi­cious cy­cle of poverty is per­pet­u­ated,” he said. Other el­e­ments show pos­i­tive re­sults of not be­com­ing teen par­ents, he said.

It also at­tempts to show teens some real-life ef­fects of a preg­nancy. Girls and boys wear gar­ments that sim­u­late the weight and shape of car­ry­ing an un­born child.

“If you show them the tra­jec­tory of their ed­u­ca­tion and ca­reer if they get preg­nant … now you’re em­pow­er­ing them to make good de­ci­sions as op­posed to an adult telling them don’t do it be­cause I said so,” Sanon said.

OIC has 20 em­ploy­ees who work on the pro­gram whose jobs would be elim­i­nated without the fed­eral fund­ing. Sanon said he’s met with the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s su­per­vi­sors last week and will ad­dress the sub­ject at an all-em­ployee town hall meet­ing this week.

OIC OF SOUTH FLORIDA/COUR­TESY

David Young, lead ed­u­ca­tor at OIC of South Florida, con­ducts a pre­sen­ta­tion on pre­vent­ing teen preg­nancy. The pro­gram is tar­geted at teens in 13 ZIP codes.

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