Evidence-Based Pregnancy Prevention Finds a Foothold in Augusta

Daniela Whitaker was uncertain when FYSB-grantee Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power & Potential (GCAPP) offered a Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP) subgrant to her organization, Kids ReStart. On the one hand, the small community program could certainly use the resources provided from the Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB). But Whitaker, the organization’s executive director, figured her board would blanch when they realized none of the required evidence-based programming options were abstinence-only, as Kids Restart had been prior to 2010.

Luckily, she knew of a needs assessment that had recently been performed on surrounding Richmond County. Through a wide-ranging survey of local business, education and political leaders, as well as teens and parents, researchers concluded that conflicting messages and a strict “just say no” policy hadn’t worked for preventing teen pregnancies. “They found that teens started to have sex around age 13, but parents only told their kids, ‘don’t do it,’” says Whitaker.

Armed with those statistics and the evidence for the effectiveness of her preferred PREP curriculum, Making Proud Choices, Whitaker approached her board and found them surprisingly enthusiastic about the new track.

“Parents and adults often see a need but don’t want to speak out first,” Whitaker says. “But when you see the numbers, you have that ammunition. The board might have still been behind it, but [the evidence] definitely helped pave the way.” This shift has been widespread in the state: Five years ago there were no agencies using evidence-based practices for adolescent pregnancy prevention in Georgia, but now there are over 140 such agencies, reaching nearly 30,000 young people.

Kids ReStart is expanding beyond simply telling kids how to avoid pregnancy. The Making Proud Choices curriculum includes lessons and guidelines about avoiding sexually transmitted infections, resisting peer pressure, and living a healthy life in general.

“We’re trying to move away from pregnancy prevention as one set-apart thing, a taboo subject,” she says, “and get to where it’s intertwined with the rest of young people’s education and experience.” Relying on hard evidence, an approach FYSB emphasizes with all grant recipients, has brought her closer than ever.