In 2014, Clinton County identified a need for reducing teen pregnancies. Before beginning their efforts, they went to examine what data already exists. Unfortunately they found that besides snapshots (number per 1000), there was not much information available and they quickly realized that they would need support as they went down the road they had set out on. Not long after identifying the issues, Clinton County entered a partnership with an Indianapolis-based organization, Health Care Education in Training, to gain their expertise.
With the formation of this incredible partnership, the two held their first event in August of 2015. Although their attendance was only 32, they saw representation from across all sectors (schools, health care, local businesses, etc). This showing allowed them to identify some of the major issues preventing youth from receiving more comprehensive sex education. During the conversation, health teachers described having a lack of guidance. There was no standardized curriculum indicating to them what they could and could not talk about. The Assistant Superintendent was in attendance when these concerns were brought to light, and began to realize the uncertainty that educators were experiencing in the classroom. In addition to educators, a panel of four youth also took part in the meeting. The panel consisted of two male and two female high school students. Additionally, two of these students were Hispanic and two were non-Hispanic, representing the school demographic of 51% of students being Hispanic. The students explained that they understood what STIs were, but that besides abstinence there wasn’t clarity on how to prevent them. They also expressed concerns with how best to manage uncomfortable sexual situations and navigating sexual experiences. With these issues laid out, Clinton County and Health Care Education in Training went to work finding a solution.
Not long after, the two organizations received a five year Federal Government Grant and set sustainability as one of their core goals. They knew that to do this they would need to involve schools at all levels (nurses, counselors, teachers, administration, etc). With there being concerns about backlash, parents and community members were also involved from step one. By hearing community concerns, these organizations were able to to continue their efforts based on a foundation of trust. Health Care Education in Training laid out the evidence-based options and explored different approaches with Clinton County until they determined the best course of action for the needs of their community. One of the key findings from this research phase was the discovery that although it is state law in Indiana that abstinence be taught, there is nothing that prevents sex education from being more than this.
After reviewing their options, three evidence-based programs were selected, each tackling a different sector (middle school, high school, and community-based). The community program was titled “Families Talking Together”. During these sessions, local partners educated parents on having sex education conversations within the home. The middle school program was titled “Draw the Line, Respect the Line”. With middle school being a setting where many sexual decisions and choices happen, having the conversation early on was identified as a target objective. The high school program was titled “Reducing the Risk”. For each of these programs, it was determined that opening the lines of communication, increasing access to resources, and thorough training of program leaders were necessary for success.
Following the implementation of these programs, Clinton County has seen a reduction in teenage pregnancies from 46 per 1000 females, to 24 per 1000 females. They have also seen the importance of bringing communities onboard as being key to this outcome. By engaging everyone in these difficult conversations, we can reduce barriers and open the doors for communication. We are so excited for all that Clinton County is accomplishing, and can’t wait to continue to see them succeed.