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Competitive Abstinence Education Fact Sheet

Published: October 24, 2013
Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention (APP)
Competitive Abstinence Education Grant Program
fact sheet

Young couple holding a daisyMission

The mission of the Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) is to support the organizations and communities that work every day to put an end to youth homelessness, adolescent pregnancy and domestic violence.


The Competitive Abstinence Education (CAE) program supports abstinence education, an intervention in a continuum of services that seeks to prevent teen pregnancy. The purpose of CAE is to provide funding to address the rates of teen pregnancy among adolescent youth who are at greatest risk of STDs/STIs and most likely to bear children out of wedlock. Programs focus on the social, psychological, and health gains to be realized by delaying initiation of sexual activity and engaging in healthy relationships.


CAE is funded generally under the authority of Section 1110 of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1310, and specifically by the appropriation for General Departmental Management for the Office of the Secretary under Division F, Title II of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012, Pub.L. 112-74.


Grantees use evidence-based models to promote abstinence by strengthening beliefs supporting abstinence, increasing skills to negotiate abstinence and resist peer pressure, and educating young people about HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections.

Projects support decisions to abstain from sexual activity by providing abstinence programming as defined by Section 510(b) of the Social Security Act, which states abstinence education must:

  1. Have as its exclusive purpose, teaching the social, psychological, and health gains to be realized by abstaining from sexual activity;
  2. Teach abstinence from sexual activity outside marriage as the expected standard for all school age children;
  3. Teach that abstinence from sexual activity is the only certain way to avoid out-of-wedlock pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and other associated health problems;
  4. Teach that a mutually faithful monogamous relationship in the context of marriage is the expected standard of human sexual activity;
  5. Teach that sexual activity outside of the context of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects;
  6. Teach that bearing children out-of-wedlock is likely to have harmful consequences for the child, the child's parents, and society;
  7. Teach young people how to reject sexual advances and how alcohol and drug use increases vulnerability to sexual advances; and
  8. Teach the importance of attaining self-sufficiency before engaging in sexual activity.

Grantees may determine the relative emphasis to place on each of the Section 510(b) components. 

All projects must be medically accurate, which means that medical information must be verified or supported by the weight of research conducted in compliance with accepted scientific methods and published in peer-reviewed journals, or be comprised of information that leading professional organizations and agencies with relevant expertise in the field recognize as accurate, objective and complete.  

Measuring Effectiveness

FYSB encourages grantees to consider the following practices in implementing effective abstinence programs:

  • Having a sound theoretical framework;
  • Conducting at least 14 hours of programming implemented over a long period of time;
  • Encouraging and fostering peer support of decisions to delay sexual activity;
  • Selecting qualified educators, training them, and providing monitoring, supervision and support; and
  • Involving multiple people with expertise in theory, research and sex education to develop the curriculum.

FYSB will provide grantees with program-related objective outcome measures designed to measure behavior, attitudes, knowledge and beliefs of young people served.

Grant Award Process

FYSB distributes CAE funds through a competitive review process. In FY 2013, $4.3 million was granted to ten projects across the country.

For More Information

For further information about CAE, contact the National Clearinghouse on Families & Youth, 5515 Security Lane, Suite 800, N. Bethesda, MD 20852; (301) 608-8098; email: ncfy@acf.hhs.gov.