OUR POLICY PLATFORM
The rate of adolescent births in Georgia is the 13th highest in the nation. Adolescent pregnancy burdens not only teenagers but also their children, families, and communities, while imposing large costs on taxpayers. Teen parents often face welfare dependency or a lifetime of poverty-level earnings and are less likely to ever finish their education or marry. Their children are more likely to grow up in single parent homes, end up in foster care, drop out of school, and become incarcerated or teen parents themselves. Because adolescent pregnancy is so closely correlated to other critical social issues, GCAPP believes that prevention should be viewed not only as a reproductive health issue, but as one that works to improve all of these measures. If policymakers make a comprehensive commitment to teen pregnancy prevention in Georgia, we would see a reduction in other social problems, from poverty, school failure, delinquency, child abuse and neglect to welfare dependence and underemployment.
The following core principles guide GCAPP’s program, policy and advocacy work in pursuit of our mission to eliminate adolescent pregnancy in Georgia:
- Although great progress has been made in recent years in reducing teenage pregnancy rates in Georgia, this is no time for complacency. It is essential that our state continue to invest in prevention programs and adolescent services to maintain the positive trend in teen pregnancy rates, and to ensure that we do not lose ground.
- A statewide adolescent pregnancy prevention strategy that is grounded in research-based best practices and is responsive to the needs of youth and families of all racial and ethnic groups is needed.
- Although overall rates have gone down in the state, there are individual counties and communities that have experienced marked increases in teen pregnancy rates in recent years, and there are some demographic populations in which rates remain very high. Targeted programming and outreach is greatly needed for vulnerable groups. GCAPP’s Plain Talk Program builds family and community capacity for preventing early pregnancy and offers valuable resources to targeted populations.
- Adolescent sexuality education should instill a strong sense of self-worth and be delivered by parents at home and other adults in school and community settings. Abstinence education is important, but by 12th grade 63% of students have had sex and more than 3 out of 10 American girls get pregnant at least once as a teen. Research demonstrates that helping adolescents postpone sex while equipping sexually-active youth with medical information and contraception on a confidential basis is the best strategy to reduce pregnancy, abortion, STDs and HIV/AIDS.
- Teen parenthood is often an intergenerational legacy. To break the cycle, pregnant and parenting adolescents need support in finishing their education, avoiding a repeat pregnancy, and becoming self-sufficient adults. G-CAPP’s network of Second Chance Homes has been successful in meeting these objectives but existing resources are not enough to serve all those in need.
- Early childbearing is associated with fragile families. Intensive intervention programs before and after birth such as child abuse and family violence prevention programs, parent skills training, and fatherhood and male involvement initiatives strengthen families and reduce risk.
- Mental and behavioral disorders such as depression, anxiety, stress, aggression and addiction are associated with early and unprotected sex. Mental health and substance abuse services must be made widely available to youth.
- Adolescent pregnancy is linked to smoking, drinking, substance abuse and related behaviors. Rather than incarceration, initiatives that identify and intervene with delinquent youth by drawing on the strengths of families and communities should be supported.
- Vulnerable youth, women and families often go without health care. Public and private insurance coverage and services should be accessible, available and affordable.
- Hope is the best “contraceptive.” Adolescents need assurance that good jobs and post-secondary educational opportunities await them as adults, and they need help in making that transition through quality out-of-school time activities, connections with caring adults, and Independent Living Services for youth aging out of the foster care system.