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OneRouge Community Check-In - Week 56

Week #56

'High Teen Birth Rates - Part I''

Meeting Notes Prepared by Zoë Haddad (Walls Project)

Frankie Robertson, MPA (President, The Amandla Group)

  • Founder of the Amandla Group, a social justice consulting firm focused on the social and political determinants of health that impact Black and Brown birthing people

  • Worked for March of Dimes for about 12 years, a national organization dedicated to improving maternal and infant health outcomes. One of the leading organizations for maternal and infant health. Served as state director for 7 years leading all aspects of the organization here in LA with some national responsibility as well then 5 years as multi-state regional and advocacy director before forming Amandla Group last March

  • Still represent March of Dimes today as well the National Birth Equity Collaborative

  • Really pleased to be a part of the MetroMorphosis team by way of Project Management services

  • My passion is maternal and infant health - there are alarming disparities not just specifically for teens but for birthing people in general in our state

  • Louisiana has the highest rate of maternal deaths, very high maternal morbidity

  • There’s a lot to be desired as far as what can be done to protect moms

  • Just wanted to share a few things about teen births:

  • In terms of resources there are a few resources March of Dimes has made available publicly through partnerships with organizations like the Greek Divine Nine: Project Alpha, a public awareness campaign between Alpha Phi Alpha and March of Dimes working with young people (particularly aimed at male-male mentorship) discussing sex education, teen pregnancy prevention, societal issues and stressors, a full curriculum

  • Zeta Phi Beta has a women-led organization that follows a similar curriculum - talk about reproductive and sexual health

  • Here to discuss rates of teen pregnancy, but I want to bring attention to the added risk for health concerns for both mom and baby, things people may not automatically relate to that issue - lots of talk about maternal mental health, Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

  • Look at social support and lack of support, economic support, that teens have

  • Preconception health is very important

  • Lots of talk about what happens when someone gets pregnant but there’s so much to do before you get pregnant - most pregnancies are unintended so we have to make sure that we focus on women’s health overall because the health of the baby is tied to the health of the mother

  • Teenagers have about an 11% premature birth rate (before 37 week gestation)

  • Focus on educating young people publicly about reproductive, sexual, and preconception health

  • Your birth outcomes are somewhat shaped by your experiences in the womb

  • For teen pregnancy or even teenage sexual activity, there are long term consequences to your reproductive self: infectious diseases, STIs, HIV/AIDS can actually impact birthing and ability to reproduce later

  • Education is very, very important at this point in a young person’s life

Angela Golden (Community Education Director, Sexual Trauma Awareness & Response)

  • Started in child abuse prevention as an AmeriCorp intern at Baton Rouge Children’s Advocacy for about about 7 years before working with STAR

  • Now we are able to offer community education which is so important when we talk about prevention and healthy outcomes

  • Office in Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and Alexandria

  • Education is something we are pushing now more than ever as we see there’s a lot of attention on social media that support claims and beliefs that aren’t factual

  • STAR is trying to bring awareness to the idea of healthy sexuality

  • One of the things we offer is our teenage dating website called STARt Here: things to think about before even thinking about engaging in sexual activities

  • Understanding and knowledge of boundaries creates that power and leads to the prevention of sexual violence for teens

  • Have this Healthy Sexuality Resource gives which gives some information about communication, equity, consent...we have “The Talk with Big Bro Dreaux” which is a guided interactive talk for teens and young adults that guides you through conversations you need to have with your dating partner about contraception, other dating partners, contraception, what might happen with pregnancy or STDs

  • Have a sex timeline which is a step-by-step guide to talk over with your dating partner when you decide to have sex: are we exclusive, are we using protection, what happens when things don’t go right during intercourse

  • Very important for us to share this information - a lot of people think that by talking and encouraging people or teens to have sex but that is not the case. Even in our work with Gardere Initiative, every summer we do a training and the questions teens have are things we didn’t think we had to explain...simple questions of anatomy, how does a baby form...questions that teens have that help to prevent unintended pregnancy, discussing utilizing condoms and contraceptives

  • It’s not just “Don’t do it” without any explanation - the more knowledge and information we are able to give our youth and community the more inclined they are to make educated decisions

  • Sexual health talk is not forcing young people into having sex, it’s actually helping them make wise decisions for themselves and their bodies

Coalition Questions and Discussion

Casey Phillips (Walls Project): Building on the education piece - does the state of LA Dept of Ed and EBR Schools mandate structured sex education?

Angela Golden: Not the schools I work with. Basically they have one class and then they call us in. They are mandated to offer teen dating violence information which we do deliver (we offer a program called Safe Dates). We also have a lot of hesitation and push back when we do discuss in the planning meetings what we’re going to talk about - as soon as the word “sex” is mentioned, we have to reword it and present it differently. The conversation surrounds best practices, sexual health, all of that is a part of it and is important with teen dating violence. You have to know your body, your rights, and your boundaries.

Frankie Robertson: LPHI has a one pager that says LA does not require instruction at any grade level but does allow sexual health education to be taught grades 7-12 and must emphasize abstinence but can also include other risk reduction methods such as contraception and condemns. I encourage everyone to stay abreast of the things happening at the state legislature...there was a bill introduced this year that talked about limiting education on racism and sex. Things are ever changing and we have to be diligent and engage at the policy level.

Casey Phillips: 1 in 4 moms will go on welfare within the third year of their child’s life, are less likely to finish high school and go on to complete higher education. How much have you seen this impact the work you all are doing? By the way, there is plenty of anecdotal exceptions of incredible young women going on to accomplish great things but this is the statewide data.

Adonica Duggan (BR Alliance for Students): I think at a high school level you can’t minimize, if you look at graduation rates, it definitely has an impact. The vast majority of kids aren’t able to keep their education on track when facing these circumstances. Definitely something to consider, the intersection of improving outcomes for high school kids if you don’t have early intervention.

Reverend Anderson: Are some of the youth organizations on the calls such as 4-H, etc. engaging in this type of education?

Patrick Tuck: 4-H does have our new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Staff person as well as other healthy living staff dedicated to these kinds of issues. I want to ask - as it’s related to other traumatic instances with high school kids staying engaged, are there any resources available for teens on that front?

Angela Golden: STAR has counseling services for those who have experienced sexual violence which are completely free. We had to limit youth counseling because of COVID but now that we’re heading back to the office, we’re picking back up. As far as other resources, I would defer to the experts in the room.

Chelsea Moreau (AHA): I would connect with ICare and the prevention program within EBRPS. They have a lot of resources for all ages specifically around trauma and mindfulness.

Alfredo Cruz (Foundation for Louisiana): Is there in EBRP an infant mortality review council or panel that looks at infant deaths and their causes to ensure that there are interventions to prevent further deaths? Additionally, does the curriculum and work you do with teens include work relevant to LGBTQ and gender nonconforming teens?

Angela Golden: We are realizing the lack of that information within our curriculum. A lot of the things we have are evidence based programming...we’re going in and changing the language to utilize they/them programs instead of keeping things to the binary of he and she. We are working on specific training and content for our STARt Here website. That is something that is lacking and we need to have more of.

Frankie Robertson: At the state level, there’s a Louisiana Child Death Review Panel and the Louisiana Fetal and Infant Mortality and Review Network (FIMR)

Gwen Hamilton (NSBR): They do include some parish data but it’s collected through the state.

Reverend Anderson (PREACH): Two questions - one, in EBR we have a great number of overage middle schoolers. Question about whether or not we are moving that training chronologically to where it belongs. Two, there is a bill about creating a Women’s Health Department at the state level and if either of the speakers want to talk about where that is right now and what they think the impact of having that department will be on this particular item.

Frankie Robertson: Two separate bills...HB193 was heard in committee last week and was amended so much that Mrs. Alma Steward of the Center for Health Equity aren’t pleased with it. Some of the amendments change the integrity of the bill. They want to add some things back. The actual bill is to establish an office, it is not to create a division or separate Department of Health. It would fund three positions - an Assistant Secretary of Health, an Executive Assistant to the Secretary, and a grant researcher. They’re urging folks to reach out to your legislator over the next three days to ask that the bill be restored more closely to its original version.

Pat LeDuff (CADAV): This is good information but I’d like to ask that we continue to stand with prevention. The problem that I have is, once you have the baby it can be an advantage - food stamps, a check, etc. We want to put extra resources in to keep the kids engaged and excited about getting jobs, getting their own money, to get what they need so they’re excited about a bright future without a baby.

Casey Phillips: I know LYFE does a lot of work around abstinence. That would be another resource to link to.

Reverend Anderson: STAR is such a wealth of knowledge. Oftentimes, as a faith-based person, it is hard...I got asked privately in the chat whether faith-based organizations do these kinds of things and as a pastor I always did. But I also knew others who did not touch this stuff at all. There’s some really good assets in this community that address these topics in very factual and real ways for the community to utilize.

Reginald Brown (Gardere Initiative): We are challenged with the information that comes from current social media, the images that kids see and are inundated with all day every day, that has a powerful influence on them also. I’ve had two students who went through the training and engaged in unprotected sex and either have babies or are pregnant. I hear conversations from them - they are very liberal with sexual innuendo when they talk among themselves. The graphic sexual activities I’ve heard them talking about several years ago would have been surprising. That is what we have to fight. That is the balance of getting the message out there every day about abstinence...we did the Success Sequence for Poverty Elimination, those three things you have to do - graduate, work full time, get married before having children - so that you can get out of poverty. I think kids heard that message. The other part is classes have to be succinct, to the point, and give them a few takeaways in 15/30 minutes, make them repeat it and use it so it sticks in their mind.

Alfreda Bester: I had the privilege of being the immediate past Assistant Secretary at the Department of Children and Family Services. One of the things I think we have to start to do is help the children because they are the immediate symptom for what is usually a generational issue. Often the parents have been the victims of the ills of society and they generally pass it on because they’ve not dealt with the issue. We have to teach the parents as well. It has to be a joint effort - whether it's generational policy...children will be what they see but their parents are also what they've seen. To effectively deal with the issues the children are manifesting we also have to incorporate the parents. I don’t know how to get them all but I will die trying!

Janel Washington (Futures Fund): I want to speak to how my experience is proof that education is so important...last year I gave birth to my daughter early and a lot of things...many things made me feel defeated but my knowledge of my body, my rights, and my health, my sex education as a youth, contributed to me being able to overcome and speak with power in situations where it felt as if I could have drowned. Just speaking to the importance of that in our youth. A lot of times we confuse access with knowledge. I am here as an advocate of it’s importance for sure.

Zoë Haddad (Walls Project): I know STAR has resources for victim advocacy and I was curious if you do something like that for young people giving birth who maybe need somebody to speak to power like Janel was just talking about who if they don’t know their rights, don’t know what to say in that hospital room, have somebody to advocate for them as a young parent. Second, do you know of any resources for young people coming out of private education who didn’t receive comprehensive sex education...I went to Catholic school and this was just something you did not talk about. I was curious about that transition into higher education. Do you have any programs or know of anyone who can offer them a better education going from a shelter place to a very different college experience?

Angela Golden: There are a lot of educators at Planned Parenthood that give this education. They have a wealth of knowledge, it’s just the connotation surrounding their name. Many people steer clear of them but they give factual information, they give that base level knowledge all the way to more intense information for young adults and teens. They offer classes and workshops virtually for this information. The website in itself has tons of resources for teens and young adults. As far as advocacy for young parents, we know that intersection with sexual violence. We can provide advocacy and support but again I would defer to Planned Parenthood for that. They have tons of resources that just aren’t being utilized at all.

Frankie Robertson: I would just add based upon what Zoë was asking as far as resources for patient advocacy, I dropped some information in the chat. I would say for birthing persons experiencing that journey there are services that can be utilized by doulas - pregnancy coaches who can educate, advocate, and empower. I dropped in the chat an organization that created a list of Black doulas, a great place to start especially for culturally competent resources. Darius Spurlock (GEAR-UP/LOSFA): I was privileged to be part of one of the healthy dating curriculum’s from STAR and the students really enjoyed it. I can definitely speak to that work and how engaged the students were. Coming from the college access size, I thought about what Ms. Pat said about teen parents. I thought about seniors completing their FAFSA application. One of the barriers they often have is getting their parent’s information. As a parent, the student can be considered independent which will help them pay for a large portion of their education.

Tina Ufford (BikeBR/The Red Shoes): The Red Shoes will have an outdoor yoga class all Sundays in May at the BR Gallery park area. If anybody is looking for beginner, easy yoga, my classes on Sundays are at 10. The Red Shoes is a good resource for people needing to get to other organizations supporting women.

Flitcher Bell (SULC): Next Saturday May 22 there will be a free reentry clinic held at 7711 Goodwood Blvd covering traffic tickets, evictions, child support, etc. It's free, no police presence. No ones’ going to get re-arrested, just come out and get free legal services if you need.

Emily Chatelain: Three O’ Clock Project has an immediate need to find a home for 1,190 healthy suppers and 1,190 healthy snack meals that are going to be prepared over the weekend. Can be delivered Monday or Tuesday. Email for more info.

Rodneyna Hart: We have lots of events coming up. If anyone is interested in being a part of the Capitol Park Museum resource fair, please reach out to me.


Zoom Chat

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