They train teachers, coaches, and other adults on how to be approachable and how to listen to the concerns of young people. They provide information for parents and teenagers alike. They help fund programs at a community level. And they try to remove the stigma of talking about a sensitive subject — teen pregnancy.
The South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy does all that and more in its effort to lower the teen birth rate in the Palmetto State. Since its founding in the early 1990s, the campaign’s effectiveness is clear in a teen birth rate that’s dropped by almost 70 percent. But South Carolina still ranks 15th nationally in teen birth rate, emphasizing that work remains.
“Our motto is ‘Healthy Youth, Bright Futures, Strong Communities.’ We are part of a network of great providers who are committed to keeping SC’s young people healthy,” says Kimberley Goodman Wicker, the campaign’s Communication Manager. “Training and support for this network makes our communities stronger.”
At its core, teen pregnancy often links to other social issues like poverty, lack of education, HIV/STDs, domestic violence and alcohol and drug abuse. The SC Campaign goes into communities to meet with the parents, educators, health providers and others to learn more about root causes and effective strategies at the local level. Training provided by the campaign helps create “askable” adults — authority figures teens feel comfortable approaching and talking to, and can relay the information learned in training.
“It’s great to say, ‘parents, talk to your teens.’ But we all need tools to help young people,” Wicker says. “They are in contact with teachers, coaches, health care providers, clergy, aunts, uncles and cousins. So how can we cultivate an environment where all trusted individuals can be ‘askable’ adults? We actually provide training called ‘Askable Adult: Talking with Teens About Tough Topics’ to help youth-serving professional and other involved adults become approachable, to know how to listen, to know how to answer difficult questions.”
The campaign, a nonprofit founded in 1994, also provides information to teens and parents through a website, NotRightNowSC.org. The site features icebreakers to help parents and their teens talk about sensitive subjects like contraception, sexually transmitted diseases, and choosing to wait. Just getting the conversation started is often a huge first step.
“That’s a major hurdle,” Wicker says. “Sometimes, we take for granted that it’s an issue parents want to handle at home without involving other people. In fact, when we talk with parents, they love to know they can reach out to a local provider to get information. We want to make sure parents have resources and feel comfortable talking about the issue with their young people.”
The campaign has partnered with organizations such as Palmetto Health in Columbia, the United Way of Anderson, Helping Hands in Aiken, and the Orangeburg County Action Agency to help spread that message. It backs proactive community-based approaches that produce real results and become self-sustainable, like a Spartanburg County initiative that eventually secured federal funding and a Darlington County program that has support from the Duke Endowment and others to sustain efforts in their community.
Donations go toward funding local programs, training adults working within their communities and holding conferences that gather providers to share impactful project ideas. Donations also help maintain the nonprofit’s websites, NotRightNowSC.org and TeenPregnancySC.org, the latter containing digital resources for those who cannot come to training sessions.
The campaign accepts donations online or at 1331 Elmwood Ave., Suite 300, Columbia, S.C., 29201. Anyone seeking to support a local program with an in-kind donation should contact the campaign at (803) 771-7700. Last year, the campaign distributed over $1.4 million to 51 community organizations in 16 counties across the state.
South Carolina’s teen birth rate has dropped dramatically since peaking in 1991. But the issues remain: nearly 50 percent of teen mothers and their children live in poverty, only 3 percent of teen mothers earn a college degree by age 30, and most teen births are to mothers 18 and 19 years old.
“Our main concern,” Wicker says, “is to have healthy young people who can make our communities strong and our future bright.”
Interested in more information on the South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy? Visit their website at TeenPregnancySC.org, or contact the organization at (803) 771-7700. Donations can be made online. For teens or adults looking for tips on how to talk about preventing teen pregnancy, visit NotRightNowSC.org.