Date: June 10th, 2015
By: Pat Paluzzi
Last week, I had the opportunity to catch NPR’s Midday with Dan Rodricks, when he and Aaron Henkin hosted a two-hour conversation on teen pregnancy in Baltimore. For the most part, the show was well presented and balanced, and I particularly loved that a teen parent was part of the conversation and a teen parent school-based program was highlighted. Since 1979, Healthy Teen Network has been the only national organization dedicated to advocating for and building capacity around supporting this group of young people and their children. Supporting teen parenting is not an easy thing to do; both the right and left often see it as a political statement on abortion, and teen pregnancy prevention folks can sometimes see it as hypocritical. Here at Healthy Teen Network, we see it as a public health response to a social justice issue, and the right thing to do.
Healthy Teen Network advocates for delaying parenting because we know that in order to be prepared to fully participate in modern life, adolescents and young adults need generous opportunities to pursue education and other enrichments—opportunities that can be enhanced by delaying and spacing childbearing. But we have been doing this work for a long time, and we also know that sometimes being a teen parent makes life better –as was stated by the teen on Dan’s show last week. Her opening comments were about the joy and rewards that having her baby have brought to her and her family—a statement that I think caught the hosts off guard.
Like all parents, teen parents are often very motivated to do things that did not appeal to them before becoming parents—such as making sure they can support their children by completing their education. We know this population is very receptive to support as was discussed by the manager of the school-based program, and a little support can make a big difference.
Public and political will, however, make it challenging to sustain efforts geared toward these young men and women. Maybe more shows like Dan’s which highlight teen parent voices and show the positive outcomes of interventions can make a difference! No matter what there will always be some teen parents, and they deserve our support.
What have you learned or what has perhaps caught you off guard, when working with pregnant and parenting teens?
About the Author
Patricia Paluzzi, CNM, DrPH, President and CEO of Healthy Teen Network, has been active in the fields of reproductive, and maternal and child health for over 40 years, as a clinician, researcher, administrator, and advocate. Her clinical and content expertise spans the full scope of midwifery care, substance abuse, intimate partner violence, high-risk maternal child health (including pregnant teens), incorporating men into clinical services, and trauma-informed approaches.