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Different Programs Do Help Reduce Teen Pregnancy Rates

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Some programs that do not address sex at all, but instead get teens involved in volunteer work within the community, were found to have a significant impact on teen pregnancy.

"To be honest, we don't know why these programs are effective in reducing teen pregnancy," Kirby says. "It may be that they keep kids busy, or they may increase self esteem and cause kids to think about the future. For some very high-risk youth, participation in these programs may represent one of the first times that they are recognized by adults and the community for doing good, and that, in turn, makes them feel good about themselves."

The NCPTP report suggests that comprehensive programs incorporating a host of services for teens and preteens may be the most successful in reducing pregnancies over the long-term among high-risk adolescents. Among the best of these programs, the report found, is the Children's Aid Society Carrera program in New York.

Founded in 1985 in central Harlem by Michael A. Carrera, PhD, the program is now the model for 50 similar programs operating in 20 states. In addition to counseling and medical services, kids receive general education, sex education, and help finding after-school jobs. They are also given the opportunity to participate in sports and the performing arts.

Although other programs take a comprehensive approach to dealing with at-risk children and adolescents, Carrera says his program is unique because kids are followed closely and treated more like family than program participants.

"When a kid enters our program at 11, 12, or 13, we generally work with them until they graduate from high school," Carrera tells WebMD. "We see these kids almost every day, 12 months a year. And if they don't show up, we go and find them. There is a person on staff whose sole job is to track kids once they are in the program."

Program officials also released their own report Wednesday, outlining the findings from a three-year evaluation of six New York City sites and six sites in other urban areas. There were one-third fewer pregnancies and births among the 941 program participants than among a control group. Young girls in the program were also found to be able to avoid coercive sexual situations better than those who did not participate in the program.

"That is a stunning outcome, because it can easily impact a young woman's sexuality for the rest of her life," Carrera says. "If you can help a young woman withstand coercive sexual pressure, you may be influencing how she deals with sexual pressure from then on."

The Carrera program, while effective, is also expensive -- about $4,000 per year per child. It is funded entirely through private contributions, with the largest grants coming from the Robin Hood Foundation in New York City and Michigan's Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

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