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Teen Outreach Program helps prevent teen pregnancy

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By Sheri Hall for the BCTR

The ACT (Assets Coming Together) for Youth Center of Excellence at the BCTR is helping youth organizations across the state of New York launch a youth development program to help prevent teen pregnancy.

The Teen Outreach Program, or TOP, is a program for youth ages 12 to 17. It was developed for the St. Louis Public Schools in 1978. Since then, research has shown the program helps to prevent teen pregnancy and also improves academic outcomes such as increasing high school graduation rates.

With support from ACT for Youth, six agencies are funded by the New York State Department of Health to implement TOP.  As a replication partner, ACT for Youth staff will train facilitators, offer technical assistance and help the sites evaluate the program’s effectiveness. So far, one site in Long Island has nearly 300 youth enrolled.

2014 Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research (BCTR) portraits.

Divine Sebuharara

The program includes lessons about healthy behaviors and life skills including critical thinking skills, goal-setting, information about healthy relationships, communication, human development, and sexual health. TOP is unique because the curriculum component offers different levels for young people in different age groups, said Divine Sebuharara, an extension support specialist with ACT for Youth.

“Facilitators also have the ability to pull lessons from other levels,” she said. “So as they get to know the kids, they can tailor the lessons to their needs. They can provide more basic information for kids who need it, or they can provide more advanced information for students who are ready for the next level. This requires a skilled facilitator who really knows their youth. Skilled and caring facilitators are an integral part of this program’s success.”

In addition, the program includes a community service learning (CSL) component where students engage in at least 20 hours on a project, or projects, they decide upon and assist in planning and implementing. “By engaging in CSL while learning new content and skills, participants are able to apply their knowledge and develop a sense of self-efficacy,” Sebuharara said.

ACT for Youth was launched in 2000 to reduce risky sexual behavior among youth by advancing the principles of positive youth development. The program is a partnership between the BCTR, Cornell University Cooperative Extension of New York City, Ulster BOCES, and the University of Rochester Medical Center. It receives funding from the New York State Department of Health.

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New Tool Helps Program Staff Better Serve Young Parents

(0) Comments  |   Tags: ACT for Youth,   Amanda Purington,   Christine Heib,   Divine Sebuharara,   Dora Welker,   parenting,   youth,  
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Purington, Welker, Sebuharara, and Heib

Purington, Welker, Sebuharara, and Heib

The ACT for Youth Center of Excellence has developed an Asset/Risk Assessment Tool for use with families headed by adolescents or young adults. The tool was created for programs working within Pathways to Success, a New York State Department of Health initiative that seeks to establish an infrastructure of support for young families in the Bronx, Buffalo, and Rochester.

One of the purposes of the tool is to build relationships between expectant and parenting students and the Pathways to Success staff so that the young people will use the staff as a conduit to services in the community students may not be aware of or have easy access to. Pathways to Success staff are also working to strengthen relationships with community partners serving this population to help streamline services and reduce barriers to access in the long term.

The tool was developed by Amanda Purington and Dora Welker; Divine Sebuharara and Christine Heib piloted the assessment with expectant and parenting young people and Pathways organizations.
The 3-phased tool contains:

  1. an intake form which collects basic personal information;
  2. an extensive assessment of the expectant or parenting student’s current resources and supports and their priority needs;
  3. an opportunity for staff to create a tailored list of referrals to meet the young parent’s priority needs.

Phase 3 serves as a check-in with the young parent, a month or two after the first two phases, to see if referrals were helpful and determine if new needs have developed. This follow-up phase is repeated as many times as necessary to insure the young parent and their family connect with resources and services in the community.
ACT for Youth Center of Excellence staff piloted this tool with six expectant and parenting young people in Pathways communities, and it was very well received. Participants found the survey duration manageable and the questions to be relevant and valuable. One new parent of a 6-month old son found the process extremely useful, wishing she had this opportunity prior to giving birth, saying, “it would have been nice to have everything set up before I had him.”

The assessment examines the full scope of the student’s situation, considering financial and social support, mental health, employment status, housing, food, clothing, health care, transportation, educational support, vocational services, and the student’s parenting skills. This comprehensive picture of the student’s current environment allows Pathways to Success staff to tailor an approach that will meet the distinctive needs of each young parent, improving their own -- and their children’s -- health, development, well-being, and self-sufficiency.

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Supporting Young Families: The Role of Social Network Analysis

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Young parents, especially teen parents, must depend on a network of support and multiple services to raise their children, achieve educational and financial goals, and keep their families healthy. Resources for expectant and parenting teens and young adults may come from many directions: supportive housing, child care, and employment services, to name a few – but often there is no clearly identifiable system that coordinates these efforts.

Pathways to Success, an initiative of the New York State Department of Health, aims to better connect parenting teens and young adults to key resources in Buffalo, Rochester, and the Bronx. The initiative funds one community college and one public school district in each community, with technical assistance provided by the BCTR’s ACT for Youth Center of Excellence. Specifically, ACT staff members Amanda Purington, Dora Welker, Divine Sebuharara, Mary Maley, Christy Heib, Jane Powers, and Heather Wynkoop-Beach have all played important roles on various parts of this initiative.

While Pathways grantees had a good sense of available services, coordinating these services to best serve youth in need was a daunting challenge. ACT staff recognized that social network analysis could be used in these communities to both create a distinct picture of existing networks and identify ways to strengthen collaborations.

Social network analysis is a set of methods for examining social structures and relationships within a network. Using the PARTNER social network analysis tool (created at the University of Colorado Denver), ACT staff worked with grantees to build customized online surveys and analyzed results in order to better understand collaborative activity within grantee networks and possibilities for new connections.

To define their networks, all the Pathways grantees were asked to compile a list of organizations with whom they already have relationships, or would like to be connected. ACT staff then developed PARTNER-based surveys tailored to each community. Next grantees distributed the surveys to their network lists, encouraging participation. Finally, ACT staff quantified the results, creating a visual representation of how the different organizations are -- or are not – connected.

ACT maps visual

These example maps show a city's grantees' (yellow dots) network with all collaborations (top) and then those at the "networking" and "coalition" levels of engagement.

Using the survey results, ACT staff created two types of network maps for the Pathways to Success initiative. The first map illustrates the level of collaboration. “Networking” is the most basic level: members of the network are aware of one another and may have informal relationships, but do not make any major decisions together. Networking is followed on the continuum by cooperation, coordination, and coalition, with collaboration at the highest level – when all major decisions are made collectively. The second map depicts frequency of contact among organizations. “Higher” and “more frequent” are not always ideal or feasible. The maps help spur discussion of what level of collaboration and frequency of contact would best serve young families in each community.

Three network indicators are also included in the analysis: 1) density -- the number of network ties relative to the total number of possible ties – which demonstrates the overall cohesiveness of the collaborative, 2) degree centralization, which refers to how well connected the members of the network are collectively, and 3) the level of trust among the members as a whole. For example, one community network had an overall trust score of 78%, indicating that a majority of responding organizations reported high levels of mutual trust. In addition to these whole network indicators, many other metrics can also be examined for each of the organizations in the network.

To discuss the findings, ACT for Youth held “data dialogue” sessions with grantees in each community. The network maps clarified where communication and collaboration are strong, and where there are opportunities to help the community better serve expectant and parenting young people. Some grantees were surprised that while their community was rich in resources, those resources were not being evenly accessed. Grantees also recognized a lack of coordination among certain organizations, resulting in some members of the network “doing the same job many times over.” Other grantees realized the need to focus on strengthening and building community systems to include organizations that may not have completed the survey, but should be at the table. For example, one group was surprised when they noticed that their county health department and a home visiting program had not responded to the survey, prompting the grantees to think about strengthening connections to include these valuable resources in future conversations.

Following these initial sessions, the grantees are holding meetings with their networks of community organizations. These meetings mirror the first data dialogue session, but allow an opening for the larger community to discuss how they can strengthen relationships in the entire network, bring others to the table, decrease duplication of services, and take steps to bridge gaps.

For the Pathways to Success initiative, this first implementation of the survey will serve as a baseline for the communities. ACT for Youth will help grantees administer the survey annually, documenting change over time, including stronger relationships among the vital organizations within each community.

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