December 26, 2005

Arkansas Group to Spend $11,000 per Kid on Abstinence Education

Posted by Amanda Toering
Thursday October 20th 2005, 10:05 am
Filed under: Government

The Little Rock-based Center for Youth and Families has received an $837,000 grant from the Bush Administration to ensure that a hand-picked group of 75 Arkansas teens don’t get pregnant. For the math-impaired among us, that breaks down to just over $11,000 per kid.

The 75 12- to 14-year-olds (girls, presumably) were chosen because they have siblings who were teen parents.

From the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:

For about $11,160 per child over the three-year life of the grant, the group will hire case managers to meet several times a week with the 12- to 14-year-old participants, assisting them in community service activities, recreational outings and at school, said Pam Plummer, the group’s curriculum coordinator.

“We’ve been serving teenage parents for 16 years,” Plummer said of the group, which says it serves 8,000 children and families a year. “We realized a lot of them have siblings that are at risk.”

The 75 youths in the program will come from extremely low-income Pulaski County families, she said. It will begin in about three weeks, once case managers are hired….

“We’ll be able to really support them,” Plummer said. Her caseworkers will not, however, be teaching their charges about condoms. In accordance with federal guidelines tied to the grant, instruction will be strictly abstinence-only….

Plummer said the centers have always supported abstinence as the best way to prevent teen pregnancies, and that the teaching will address sexually transmitted diseases and other health issues.

Asked if the abstinence-only requirement would be a hindrance, Plummer would only comment on the goals of the program. “Hopefully, it will instill in them some confidence,” she said. “With this age group, it will be a great program.”

Marvin Schwartz, vice president of community affairs for Planned Parenthood of Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma, said cutting discussion of safe sex out of programs such as this can seriously limit their effectiveness.

“Many of these young people will be our patients,” Schwartz said, meaning that the 75 teens would have to look outside of the program for sex education and clinical services.

Planned Parenthood does support abstinence education, Schwartz said, but realizes that “a significant portion of our young people are sexually active.” His organization promotes using abstinence as a base, then branching out into issues such as birth control…

Plummer said the program’s intensive nature and year-round status contribute to the high cost. Also included are costs for transporting and feeding participants and staff expenses.

“It’s really pretty reasonable,” she said. “Teen parenting is a huge expense to taxpayers. Hopefully, [the teens in the program are] not going to do drugs, they’re not going to get involved in gangs.”

Harry Wilson, associate commissioner of the administration, said by focusing on so few youths, the program, if successful, could lend scientific proof to the value of abstinence-only education.”

There’s the rub. “Could lend scientific proof to the value of abstinence-only education.” Because as of now, there is no proof.

This program is a laughable boondoggle. Little Rock’s Center for Families and Youth can’t be blamed for accepting the money (and the strings attached to it). Many health nonprofits have lost their funding from the federal Administration for Children and Families, the source of the Arkansas grant, because they have refused to focus solely on abstinence-only education. Nonprofits simply cannot receive federal funds unless they agree to spout the right-wing doctrine mandated by the Bush Administration.

But again, there is no proof that abstinence education works. Does abstinence itself prevent teen pregnancy? Hell yes. We all know that.

Does abstinence education make teens better at practicing abstinence? You were a teenager once. You figure it out.

Spending $11,000 to prevent 75 babies being born to teen mothers is a joke with a punchline that could make you cry. (Especially when it’s delivered by the same people who are trying to overturn Roe v. Wade.)

Here’s an idea: Spend $5 bucks on a condom demonstration and a scared-straight lecture — and don’t leave out the boys. I’m betting the results will be better.

5 Comments so far

I’m generally in favor of people helping poor kids with “community service activities, recreational outings and at school.”

It’s the creepy this-is-so-you-don’t-get-pregnant-like-your-older-sister aspect I wish they’d skip.

Comment by Eric Jaffa 10.20.05 @ 12:03 pm

Are these girls supposed to view their nieces and nephews as tragic?

Comment by Eric Jaffa 10.20.05 @ 12:04 pm

Eric, I’m all in favor of getting kids involved in community activities, and I applaud groups whose mission it is to do just that.

I think it’s appalling, though, that they can only receive federal funding if they do it in such a way to advance the administration’s political agenda. While private funding is available, foundations have been hit hard in recent years and many organizations have no choice but to accept federal grants — and their limitations.

Comment by Amanda Toering 10.20.05 @ 12:06 pm

I don’t want schools to give “abstinence only education” or “a condom demonstration and a scared-straight lecture.”

Parents are responsible for teaching their own kids about this.

Schools are for teaching math, literature, history, and science.

Comment by Eric Jaffa 10.20.05 @ 1:36 pm

i think that a well balanced sex education class, complete with all of the info on birth control from pills to condoms and abstinanace, should be mandatory for every child in the US, if not the world. and a good addition to such a course, after the kids have learned how to prevent unwanted pregs, would be an in depth study of how such unwanted pregs affect the lives of everyone from grand parents to children.

Comment by John Sexton 10.21.05 @ 8:46 pm

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