Recently in Latino Initiative Category
Dec 09 2013Changing the Conversation in Latino Families: One Family at a Time
My daughter is nearly two and one half years old and since the day I gave birth I have thought about how I will discuss sex and relationships with her. Sounds crazy, huh? I don't think so. These last two years have flown by and I know that I have to be prepared to answer those questions when the time comes. To a certain extent, I'm lucky that I will be prepared because it is part of my job. I have been in public health for over 13 years and recently I became the Director of Partnerships at The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. Ironically enough, the first two reports I read during my first two weeks on the job had to do with communication between Latino parents and their teen children.
Recently, Child Trends released two research briefs, When Sex and Dating are the Same: Latinos' Attitudes on Teen Parenthood and Contraception and Let's (Not) Talk about Sex: Communication and Teen Pregnancy Prevention Within Hispanic Families, that focused on the challenges that Latino parents and their teen children face in having those conversations. What I read resonated because I was one of those teens who found it difficult to speak to my mom about sex and relationships. Many of my Latina and Latino friends faced the same issue.
Like the teens in the study, we wanted to speak to our parents. We wanted to tell them that we respected the values they passed on but things have changed and we needed their help to make good decisions. Most of us could not find a way to start the conversation. As I got older, I realized that my mom, like the parents in the study, wanted to have a conversation with me that went beyond "do not have sex," "do not get pregnant," and "kissing boys leads to other things." The same things teens and parents in the study reported hearing and saying.
The National Campaign knows that Latino families want to have these conversations and it is these conversations that will continue the declines in the teen pregnancy and teen birth rates. This is why we partnered with Dr. Vincent Guilamo-Ramos of the Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health (CLAFH) to expand the use of Families Talking Together (FTT), an innovative intervention designed to help parents speak to their sons and daughters about delaying sex. Together with CLAFH, The National Campaign is testing the use of promotores de salud to deliver FTT to 500 families in California. Results of the testing won't be available until next year but the use of promotores in implementing FTT addresses some of the challenges identified by the briefs in bringing this information to, and opening the lines of communication between, Hispanic parents and their children.
As for me, I'm looking forward to using this resource as I know that my husband and I will be the biggest influence on my daughter's future decisions about sex. That is why I commit to build a trusting relationship with her so we can talk about sex, contraception, and our family's values at the appropriate times and help to change the conversation about sex and contraception in the Latino community.
Jul 01 2013Faith Leaders in Preventing Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy
When I was growing up in a faith community, I often felt like the rare discussions we had about sex leaned simplistically towards "if you have sex, you are dirty and your life will be ruined, so don't even think about it." There was a sense that I should be afraid of my body, other people's bodies, and anything to do with sex. It was not until my last few years in that community that the act of sex ceased being framed as an obvious evil, and the emphasis was placed instead on having open conversations about what sex really meant in the context of a relationship, long-term plans, and my religion.
Out of those experiences, it seems very clear to me now that there is a big difference in effectiveness between telling teens "say no to sex," and actually getting them to think and decide for themselves how sex, love, and relationships fit into their lives and faith. The first is just surface teaching. While some teens will accept and adhere to it, others may not take it as seriously, and a number of teens might even actively subvert it behind the backs of their parents and faith leaders. "Say no to sex"--but why? How can teens take that message and believe in it, when the media, society, and many of their peers say otherwise? How can teens resolve to "say no to sex" if they cannot speak openly and honestly about that decision to their parents or faith leaders, when many of them prefer to think of teens as non-sexual beings until after marriage?
Countering the Silence: A Faith Leader's Toolkit for Preventing Teen Pregnancy (available in English and Spanish) a new resource released by Esperanza, a Latino faith-based evangelical network, is a big step in the right direction. As a new survey confirms, a majority of teens and adults think that faith leaders should be doing more to help prevent teen pregnancy. Silence in faith communities on the subject of sex can contribute to feelings of guilt and shame, misconceptions about sex, and increased risk of unintended pregnancy. Countering the Silence equips faith leaders with tools to break that silence. The toolkit is biblically-grounded and offers data and research, ideas on how to engage teens and parents, and more than a dozen Bible studies to generate open conversations about sex, long-term plans, and God's intentions for teens.
Only by having open, grounded discussions can "say no to sex" become a thought that is truly lived. Proverbs 22:6, quoted by Countering the Silence, says: "start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it." Like the parable of the wise and foolish builders, a choice made upon vague ideas and threats is like a house built on sand that is easily toppled. A choice made out of numerous conversations about sex, love, and dating with faith leaders, parents, and other teens is like a house built on a rock--one that will stand firm even in the face of outside pressures. Please help faith leaders create that rock, engage their communities, and prevent teen pregnancy by spreading the word about Countering the Silence.
Helen Zhang is an intern with The National Campaign's Public Policy department for the summer. She is currently a junior at Smith College, where she is studying government and economics. She enjoys frozen yogurt, comedy shows, and thinking about how people are influenced by their beliefs.
Jun 21 2013Countering the Silence With Esperanza
This week, during the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast and Conference, Esperanza, one of the largest Latino faith-based organizations in the U.S., released a new toolkit designed to help faith leaders address teen-pregnancy-related issues from a Biblical perspective. The Countering the Silence toolkit provides pastors, ministers, and youth leaders with several resources--including over a dozen Bible studies and suggested activities--to inspire thoughtful discussions with teens and parents on the importance of preventing teen pregnancies.
With The National Campaign's most recent poll indicating that most adults (52%) and teens (57%) believe that religious leaders and groups should be doing more to help prevent teen pregnancy, it is critical to introduce Countering the Silence to as many faith leaders as possible in hopes of garnering their support and having them play a role in reducing teen pregnancies. The preliminary feedback I received from faith leaders attending the NHPBC was positive. Several stated that they felt the toolkit was going to be tremendously useful, simple to implement, and easy to customize and tailor to their liking.
Get additional information on Countering the Silence, as well as downloadable PDFs of the toolkit in both English and Spanish, here. And, any assistance you are able to provide by making faith leaders in your community aware of the toolkit's existence and availability would be tremendously appreciated.
May 13 2013Latino High School Dropout Rate at an All-Time Low
Back in February, I blogged about the study by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and how the national Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate (AFGR) for Latino high school students had increased 71.4%. Now, I'm elated to follow-up with a blog regarding a new report released last week by The Pew Research Hispanic Center that builds upon NCES's findings. According to Pew, the Latino high school dropout rate is at an all-time low and has dropped 50% from its rate in 2001 (28%) to its current level in 2011 (14%)!
Furthermore, Pew states that 69% of Latino high school graduates in the Class of 2012 enrolled in college that fall, at a rate that surpassed those of non-Hispanic white high school graduates (67%).
With Latino teen educational attainment on the rise and Latina teen pregnancy rates continuing to decline, I hope that these findings indicate the beginning of what will be a long-term, ongoing trend. With an ever growing number of Latino teens delaying parenthood, graduating from high school, and enrolling in college, this generation of youths has a future that's full of promise and prosperity.
Apr 23 2013Latino Families Working Together to Prevent Teen Pregnancy
Despite a 34 percent decline in teen pregnancy over the past two decades, four out of 10 Latinas get pregnant at least once before age 20--more than one and a half times higher than the national average. Research makes clear that there is much parents can do to help their children avoid teen pregnancy. Unfortunately, there are few resources that help Latino parents navigate this critical area. Therefore, in 2011, The National Campaign developed the Latino Parent Teen Communication project. Through the project, which is generously supported in part by The California Wellness Foundation, The National Campaign and partners worked with stakeholders in California to develop, test, promote, and distribute resources for Latino parents that will help them reduce teen pregnancy in their families and communities.
Families Talking Together (FTT), an evidence-based program specifically designed for Latino families, was chosen for use with the project because it responded to all of the needs identified through a series of focus groups, interviews, and literature review. The question left unanswered was, what is the best way to deliver FTT to Latino families? How can we make sure that parents can learn from FTT that would ensure they will talk to their kids?