Focusing on the Future to Prevent Rapid Repeat Pregnancies Among Teen Moms
For teen moms trying to keep their babies safe and healthy, it can be easy to lose sight of the future in a sea of diapers and doctors’ visits. So when Los Angeles County faced a lack of services to prevent rapid repeat pregnancies among young moms, the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles created a solution.
In 2009, hospital staff unveiled Adult Identity Mentoring 4 Teen Moms (AIM 4 Teen Moms), a customized intervention that helps participants identify their goals—and chart out the steps to achieve them—with the aim of improving their sexual health outcomes. Helping teen moms envision their futures makes it easier to see how everyday decisions like using contraception can impact their lifelong dreams in areas like school and work.
“AIM 4 Teen Moms is making the future more real for teen moms, and that future includes thinking about her reproductive plans and how that may impact her goals,” says Leslie Clark, program director at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and associate professor at the University of Southern California.
Hospital staff created AIM 4 Teens Moms using elements from Project AIM, an evidence-based model that seeks to reduce HIV risk behaviors among youth in middle school. The resulting adaptation is designed specifically for young moms, ages 15 to 19, who work with an advisor for seven individual sessions. Advisors travel to participants’ homes to meet one-on-one in order to prevent obstacles related to transportation or childcare. Youth participants also meet twice as a group, once in the middle and once at the end of the program.
Advisors follow a detailed curriculum that focuses heavily on goal-setting and helping participants identify choices based on their imagined futures. Each participant, for example, works with their advisor to create a “life plan timeline” that includes future milestones they would like to achieve such as earning their GED. They also create a “reproductive life plan” that considers if and when they would like to have more children. These two documents are then presented side-by-side to help youth see how they overlap and to highlight how family planning can make both sets of goals possible.
Despite the program’s emphasis on avoiding rapid, repeat pregnancies, AIM 4 Teen Moms promotes motherhood as a strength that leads to new experiences and skills. The key, Clark states, is to help teens picture what they want to achieve in life and to give them the facts and support they need to make informed choices.
“AIM 4 Teen Moms is giving [teen moms] skills and opportunities to think differently about themselves and the world,” Clark says. “[This approach] says, ‘You can do it. You can take charge of your path, and there are resources to help you do that.’”
Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles is a grantee of the Personal Responsibility Education Innovative Strategies (PREIS) Program administered by the Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB). It is also one of the grantees highlighted in a series of implementation studies conducted by Mathematica Policy Research through the Office of Adolescent Health. Learn more about that research project and its anticipated timeline.