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Power Through Choices

The only proven effective sexual health program designed with and for youth in systems of care.

Where We Started

After years of supporting their efforts and providing training and technical assistance, Healthy Teen Network acquired Power Through Choices, the evidence-based program from the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy. Since the first edition in 1995, the curriculum has seen many revisions accompanied by evaluation studies.

A little history…

1ST EDITION (1995)

The original Power Through Choices curriculum was created in the mid-1990s by the Family Welfare Research Group in the School of Social Work at the University of California, Berkeley. The curriculum was based upon focus group work with youth in out-of-home care throughout California, interviews with staff working with foster youth, site visits, pilot testing, and a process evaluation of participant satisfaction. When the Power Through Choices curriculum was developed in the mid-1990s, it was the only adolescent pregnancy prevention program designed with and for youth in systems of care. Though participant feedback was positive, no rigorous evaluation had been conducted to document its effectiveness.

2ND EDITION (2008-2010)

From 2008-2010, the curriculum was revised by a team from the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) and the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center as part of the Promoting Science-Based Approaches to Teen Pregnancy Prevention initiative coordinated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This revision added sessions on reproductive health basics and STIs. Other revisions expanded the content, ensured medical accuracy, and more closely aligned the curriculum with the needs of the child welfare system and the youth they serve.

3RD EDITION (2010-2017)

In 2010, the Power Through Choices Demonstration and Evaluation Project was selected by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Administration on Children and Families (ACF) as an Innovative Strategies grant in the Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP). The three-state research project was designed to test the efficacy of the recently updated and expanded curriculum. The final impact evaluation report documenting outcome findings showed strong evidence of effectiveness.

The success of the Power Through Choices program model was built upon the initial program design and core content created in 1995 by the original developers of the curriculum: Richard P. Barth, MSW, Ph.D.; Marla Becker, M.P.H.; Helen H. Cagampang, M.P.P., Ph.D.; and Ruth C. White, M.S.W., M.P.H. Their commitment to actively engaging young people themselves in designing and shaping the program’s content remained a commitment through the revision process led by Janene Fluhr, Shante Fenner, and Sharon Rodine. The commitment to ensuring the voices of youth inform the program’s implementation to ensure its relevance continues today.

4TH EDITION (2018)

In 2018, we updated the curriculum, making language more gender-inclusive, clarifying instructions, adding activities and resources, and ensuring content is up-to-date and medically accurate. We updated the training-of-facilitators (TOF) and developed a training-of-trainers (TOT) to prepare experienced trainers to conduct a Training-of-Facilitators, where health educators are prepared to implement the curriculum with youth. TOTs are a great way to support long-term sustainability because trainers will be ready to train teams of health educators.

Image of owl from Power Through Choices logo, with the 10 lessons identified from the curriculum

What It Is

Power Through Choices: My Life, My Choices (4th Edition) is a 10-session evidence-based prevention curriculum specifically designed for adolescents ages 13–18 in systems of care.

Power Through Choices is the only sexual health program designed with and for youth in foster care and other out of home care.

Power Through Choices was the first sexuality education curriculum developed for youth who are involved in a child welfare or juvenile justice system to help them prevent pregnancy, HIV, and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Venn diagram of youth populations for the curriculum: youth ages 13-18, all sexual orientations, all genders, living in foster care or other systems of care

The curriculum’s goal is to provide youth in systems of care with specific information and skills to help them avoid risk-taking sexual behavior and reduce the incidence of adolescent pregnancy, HIV, and other STIs.

The proven-effective sexual health curriculum consists of 10 lessons, each 90 minutes in length, designed for implementation with groups of 8-20 participants, and is:

  • Based in theory,
  • LGBTQ+ inclusive, and
  • Trauma-Informed.

Learn more about the curriculum in the Curriculum Overview.

Image with icons identifying key elements of Power Through Choices: sexual health curriculum, 10 lessons, 90 minutes each, for groups of 8-20 participants, based in theory, LGBTQ+ inclusive, trauma-informed, proven effective

Why It Matters

Through our trainings, more young people can receive this proven-effective program. With a focus on self-empowerment and the impact of choices, youth participants learn to:

  • Make healthy, positive choices related to sexual behaviors
  • Develop and practice effective communication skills;
  • Identify and access available resources; and 
  • Use effective pregnancy and STI protection.
Image has a venn diagram with the two focuses of the curriculum, then lists the objectives.

What We Found

As part of the programs randomized control trial, youth receiving the Power Through Choices curriculum reported statistically significant impacts in numerous areas on a 12-month post-program survey:

Participants…

  • Reported lower rates of sexual activity,
  • Were less likely to be involved in a pregnancy, and
  • Were less likely to report having sex without birth control.

Learn more about our evaluation findings in our curriculum reports and journal articles.

Image lists evaluation findings for the curriculum.

It taught me a lot like, like sex-wise and stuff. Taught me how to protect myself from harm and taught how you can do better with yourself and your protection.

— Youth Participant, Age 15

Before…I don’t think that they knew how to talk about it. Nobody knew how to talk about it to them, and I think the kids are taking all those things away from here.

— Group Home Staff Member

It exposed [youth] to lines of thought that they hadn’t had in the past. It got them to think more critically about what their options are with regards to behavior.

— Group Home Administrator

Power Through Choices Training-of-Facilitators participant shares what she liked about our training.

What’s Next

We offer training-of-facilitators (TOF) and developed a training-of-trainers (TOT) on Power Through Choices. The TOF is now available virtually, and the TOT is in the works. (Thanks COVID). Check out our training calendar for the next available date, or let us know what you need.

Coming soon, we’ll be releasing an adaptation of Power Through Choices for virtual implementation with youth. We know that the need for sexual health education doesn’t stop because we are stuck at home, and we want to make sure you have the tools and curriculum you need to provide this critical education online.

If you think Power Through Choices might be a good fit for your young people, let’s talk! From building stakeholder support to making adaptations to training your facilitators, we can help.

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