Recently in Parents 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.
Dec 06 2013Remembering U.S. Women Too
A recent opinion piece in the New York Times highlights the amazing work that is underway to increase access to family planning for 120 million women around the world. Donors, researchers, governments, and others have come together to increase access to life-saving contraceptive methods and to encourage the use of real-time data to identify supply chain issues and increase the use of best practices for delivering family planning methods. Folks covering this effort note that it has a chance to save the lives of 3 million children and that the investment in family planning will result in "millions of children who are healthier, stay in school and together drive greater prosperity on a massive scale."
While the life circumstances of most women in the United States are better than those mentioned in these articles, it is worth noting that in the developing world, investing in family planning has been identified as a critical way to improve overall life outcomes for women and families. As we debate access to and coverage for contraception in our own country, let's remember that family planning has been recognized as critical and important for increasing educational attainment, improving the health of mothers and babies, reducing relationship conflict, reducing health disparities, and reducing public spending.
To clear up any misconceptions, while there are some methods of family planning that you can buy at the store around the corner, the easiest to use and most effective methods require a visit to the health clinic and quite a bit of money. Recently it seems as though people are more interested in making it harder to get family planning than it needs to be. Wouldn't it be great to follow the lead of other countries and recognize the value and importance of family planning in the United States too?
Dec 03 2013A Pause and a Party
Gentle and loyal readers of this space know the following by heart: Teen pregnancy and birth rates are at historic lows. Thanks to teens themselves, since peaking in the early 1990s, teen pregnancy is down 42% and the teen birth rate is down 52%. There has been impressive progress in all 50 states and among all racial/ethnic groups. That, my friends, deserves a pause and a party and that is exactly what we are doing today.
The National Campaign is holding an event today at the Newseum in Washington, DC, to celebrate one of the nation's great success stories of the past two decades--the truly remarkable, off-the-charts declines in teen pregnancy and childbearing. We hope that you will be there in person. If not, join us virtually following the hashtag #52percent. (See what we did there? Clever huh?)
As part of the thanks teens celebration, we are releasing some new materials including estimates on the public costs of teen childbearing, new public opinion survey data, and brand new PSAs developed in partnership with BET, the Ad Council, and Havas Worldwide.
Costs of Teen Childbearing.
Reducing teen pregnancy not only improves the well-being of children, youth, and families, it saves taxpayer dollars. Teen childbearing in the United States cost taxpayers (federal, state, and local) at least $9.4 billion in 2010, according to an updated analysis we are releasing today. These public sector costs would have been even higher had it not been for the roughly 50% decline in the U.S. teen birth rate between 1991 (the peak year for teen childbearing) and 2010. The estimated national savings to taxpayers in 2010 alone due to the substantial decline in the teen birth rate between 1991 and 2010 was $12 billion.
The overwhelming majority of teens say they don't want to get pregnant or cause a pregnancy. That is reason enough--gracious plenty enough as my grandmother used to say--to help young people navigate their teen years absent pregnancy. For those unmoved by the personal, there is the public. The steep public costs associated with teen childbearing are just one reason why policymakers and others should not let their foot off the gas when it comes to investing in preventing teen pregnancy.
Greatest Story Never Told.
You know that teen pregnancy and childbearing are at historic lows. Duh. Most adults, however, do not. It seems that when it comes to teens, sex, and pregnancy, most adults see little more than a blur of bare midriffs. In fact, fully 49% of adults inaccurately believe the nation's teen pregnancy rate has increased over the past two decades, according to new survey data also released today by The National Campaign. Just 18% of adults believe the teen pregnancy rate has declined.
The Buttered Biscuit.
It wouldn't be a party without laughter. We hope some new PSAs just might do the trick. Several new PSAs about preventing unplanned pregnancy, including the still-high rates of pregnancy and childbearing among those age 18-19, are also being released today. Featuring funny and endearing scenarios about awkward birth control conversations (trust me, they are...well... really funny and really endearing), the new spots remind teens and young adults that moments like these shouldn't stop them from getting important information about birth control.
Nov 12 2013Global and Local: Thank you, birth control!
Sarah Craven is a really smart friend of mine who also happens to be Chief of the Washington Office of the United Nations Population Fund, so our professional lives cross. Sort of. Sarah spends her life thinking about reproductive and maternal health issues in places like Malawi and the Congo. My central focus is collecting good data on and promoting a conversation about birth control in the United States. But we care about the same things--advocating for the rights and well-being of women and girls so that everyone gets to choose if and when to have children. Thanks Sarah for saying "Thanks, Birth Control" today and in the tireless work you do every day.
At the ripe old age of 37, I gave birth to my oldest daughter. This was deemed a "geriatric pregnancy" and later in the pregnancy I was informed I had an "incompetent cervix" all leading me to believe that some new, less demeaning maternal terminology was in order.
Thanks to birth control, however, I was able to have my first child when I was at the right stage in my life to be a parent. I had already seen the world, married my soul mate, graduated from law school, paid off my student loans and bought my first home. I was ready to be a mother, the most important, wonderful, and nerve-wracking of all of my life accomplishments to date.
My daughter is now 14, a high school freshman, with the world as her oyster. Her biggest decisions are how to fit in one more AP credit or what to wear to the homecoming dance. And when she is ready, my daughter will have the information and services she needs to avoid an unplanned pregnancy so she can have the same opportunities that I had to finish her education and tackle the world before she has to tackle changing diapers.
Unfortunately, not all 14 year old girls are so lucky. The high rate of adolescent pregnancy globally is the focus of a new United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) State of the World Population report, Motherhood in Childhood, Facing the Challenge of Adolescent Pregnancy. Country-by-country data found in the report shows the disproportionately high pregnancy rates among young girls globally in rural and impoverished areas of developing countries, as well as in higher income countries.
In developing countries, 7.3 million girls under 18 give birth each year, with two million of these births to girls age 14 and younger. High rates of adolescent births persist among developed countries--including the United States, which has the highest rate of adolescent births among higher income countries at 31 births per 1,000 teen girls annually.
This premature entry into motherhood adversely affects opportunities for education, health, and long-term employment. For adolescent girls in the U.S. who have a baby, only half complete high school by age 22, compared to nine of 10 girls who do not have a baby. Adolescent pregnancy among girls in developing countries often results from not being able to make choices about their bodies and decisions being made about their bodies that are beyond their control, such as child marriage.
We need to change the game for adolescent girls. To reduce the global rise in adolescent pregnancy rates we need changes in attitudes and the actions of the societies in which girls live. Girls must be better educated, child marriage must be eradicated, attitudes must change about gender roles and gender equality, better support must be provided to adolescent mothers, and more access to sexual and reproductive health--including contraceptives--is desperately needed.
Access to education, family support, and yes, birth control, were all factors in my being able to be a good parent and hopefully my daughter will have access to the same rights. We must expect and demand the same opportunities for all girls around the world. Childhood should never be derailed by motherhood.
Sarah Craven is the Chief of the Washington Office of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund. A lawyer by training, Sarah advocates for the rights and well-being of women and girls around the world. She is the proud mother of three children.
Nov 12 2013Family Matters: Thanks, Birth Control!
Working for an organization called The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and publicly asking my friends to participate in a day of saying "Thanks, Birth Control," I should not be surprised by dinner party conversation slipping into uncomfortable territory. I am used to learning about my friends' choice of birth control...their college boyfriends...their experiences with sex education. I am numb to it all. But then there are days like last week when my close friend Phoebe told me the story of her birth and adoption. Thank you Phoebe for spilling your heart and sharing your story to say "Thanks, Birth Control."
43 years ago--April 1st, 1970, to be exact--I was born to a preteen mother. I was put up for adoption. My very young birth parents' lives were clearly interrupted, shaken, and drastically changed forever as they entered their high school years. I have never met my birth mother and what I know about both of my birth parents does not fill an index card.
I cannot imagine the unbearable sadness of giving up a child and the unnecessary sacrifice my too-young-pregnant child-mother went through. All the fear, shame, loss of innocence, and confusion could have been avoided.
I was indeed adopted by wonderful parents and I have been given an incredible, even enviable life--and it certainly included and is due in no small part to birth control. When I was 12 years old, around the same time my birth mother got pregnant, I knew I wanted to become an architect. Everything I did after making this realization was to achieve that goal. This included extra weekend classes at local professional institutions and working intermittently within the design field throughout my high school years and college.
I was able to go on to graduate school and get my degree from an Ivy League university in my chosen discipline. I am so fortunate to have all the support of good family, friends, and the many privileges of western society. Among the most significant is clearly education. This again includes having been informed and having had access to birth control--providing me with the freedom to make my own decisions within my own timeline.
I have a small design firm that allows me to spend time with my family and hopefully make a small spatial improvement in other families' homes. My husband and I have two beautiful boys in grade school, and they were born when I was truly ready to be a parent.
I just went to save this file, wondering what folder in my desktop I should save it in. I put it in a folder I have titled "Family Matters," where I save all the various things concerning our family's day to day lives. Family matters!
Thanks, birth control.
Phoebe Cervigni Millon is the Principal of her own Residential Design Firm, Phoebe PCM by Design LLP, and a licensed DC Home Improvement Contractor. Phoebe is a classically trained architect with her masters in architectural design from MIT. She is the proud mother of two boys, Giovanni (11 yrs old) and Luca (7 yrs old).