Teenage pregnancy program faces ax
Trump administration to end funding next year
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.
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.