COMMUNITY VOICES SPOTLIGHT
Strategies for Sustaining your Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) Program
I’m sure by now the word is out that the Office of Adolescent Health (OAH) will be terminating all five year TPP projects at the end of Project Year 3. For those organizations that had TPP funding in previous years, and were not funded in the second OAH TPP funding cycle, this felt like “an oh too familiar feeling” of frustration and loss. For organizations funded to do this work through 2020, this news was devastating. Loss of funding for many means that not only is the program coming to an end, but it’s likely that the Community Advisory Groups (CAG) and the Youth Leadership Teams (YLT) will be disbanded and staff dedicated solely to TPP projects will need to be reassigned or terminated. This type of news is never easy to process. As a leader of an organization connected to this work, it’s the type of news you dread. But let’s be honest; although it’s not the first thing we think about when the notice of award comes, the possibility that funding will be lost or cut is always looming in the background in agencies that rely heavily on federal grant funding. If we were to be truly honest with ourselves, the possibility of something like this happening has been a recurring issue since shortly after the Office of Adolescent Health (OAH) began funding TPP programming. Those individuals who have opposed evidence based teen pregnancy prevention programming, have always been there, have always been vocal and have always pressed forward with their agenda. Somehow, (regardless of what was happening) they knew that an opportunity to shift the tide would come…and they would be ready. For those of us working in TPP programs or providing support to funded TPP programs as consultants, the larger question is; Did you prepare? Did you begin strategizing on ways to sustain this work from the moment you received your notice of award? Did you consider the implications of what a change in the administration at the highest level would mean to programs like yours? Or, did we simply waft in the joy of winning and consumed ourselves with the work of meeting our funded deliverables with the hope that at some point, we could transition some of our efforts to sustaining this work should something catastrophic happen? Well…it did.
To be sure, change is never easy. But as someone who has committed his professional career to helping individuals, organizations and communities address complex health and social problems, it has been both my personal and professional experience that true ingenuity and innovation is almost always birthed out of adversity. In truth, we are at our best when faced with difficulty and challenges. Over the course of the next few months, our Community Voices segments will focus on Strategies for Sustaining Your Teen Pregnancy Prevention efforts. It can be done if we commit to leveraging all the passion and enthusiasm that we felt when we began this journey years ago. The same passion and commitment that has changed the teen pregnancy narrative in Georgia can be used to sustain this work for those young people that still need to hear what we have to say. To this end, STEP 1 in sustaining your work is to pause and remember your “Why?”. What drove you to this work? What story was shared that moved you to action; What lit that fire that made you say, “I want to do something about this…?” Was it the face of a pregnant or parenting teen? Was it the thought of who you were as a teen and what your life was or could have been as a teen parent? Whatever the reason, take a moment to reflect on your “why” and use that emotion to fuel your commitment to keep pressing forward in the face of adversity.
This article was written by Jevon Gibson, CEO of Community Health Solutions (CHS) a social innovation consulting firm and Director of the Center for Adolescent Male Development (CAMD).