Youth-Involved Reform Programs: An Effective Way to Help Youth

By Kelsie Potts, CFCC Student Fellow 2015-2016

Youth involvement in combating socioeconomic issues is crucial in improving the well-being of those in need. As a Student Fellow in the Center for Families, Children and the Courts (CFCC) Student Fellows Program, I have learned that factors such as poverty, homelessness, lack of transportation, being a young parent, lack of nutrition, and an overall lack of resources can affect whether or not a student is motivated to attend school. Programs like CFCC’s Truancy Court Program (TCP) have successfully helped to combat the issue of truancy, while encouraging students to want to come to school. The TCP is unique due to the fact that the program works with the youth in a holistic, open-dialogue nature.  However, the issue of teenage pregnancy is something that needs to be addressed on a greater scale in order to combat truancy. Teenage parents tend to abandon their educational plans, due to the added stress and responsibilities of parenthood. This helps add to Baltimore City’s climbing cycle of poverty and truancy.

Five years ago the Baltimore City Health Department initiated the Teen Pregnancy Program Initiative (TPPI) to help curb the unintended teen birth rate.[1] This initiative was created due to the fact that Baltimore City’s teen birth rate was twice as high as the Maryland average and more than three times higher than the national average.[2] This initiative has seen immediate success reducing the number of teenage pregnancies by 1/3 between the years of 2009-2013.[3]  This reduction exceeded the TPPI’s goal for 2015 of a 20% reduction in teen pregnancies.[4]

TPPI focuses on a collaborative, holistic approach with four main strategies in order to reduce unintended teenage births:

  1. Teen Pregnancy Taskforce: this taskforce is a collaborative effort by academic, medical, and community agencies; it provides strategic direction, planning, and implementation of activities, with a focus on specific populations such as foster care youth and pregnant and parenting teens.
  2. Provider Engagement and Outreach: focused on improving clinical services for teens, this strategy uses medically trained professionals to train “healthcare providers and clinics in the provision of safe, long-acting, and reversible contraceptives” for teens in a “client-centered, youth-friendly” manner.[5]
  3. Youth Advisory Council: a group of Baltimore City youth come together twice a month to discuss the initiative and ways to reach other youth; members of the council are trained peer health advocates who use social media to reach other youth.
  4. Social Marketing Campaign: “Know What U Want U Choose campaign speaks to young people’s desire to make their own decisions and empowers them to plan for their future.”[6]

Like the TCP, I believe that much of the success of the TPPI initiative stems from its youth advisory council. It is interesting to see an initiative tailored in a way that allows teens to lead.  This approach benefits the individuals involved and has shown rather quick, positive results. I find it beneficial that the youth advisory council is run by the youth in the community. Not only are the youth involved trained in health practices that could prevent unwanted teen births, but these youth have now become a resource to their community and can reach an audience that normal resources cannot.  Using a teen-based approach with teens as a resource makes something more accessible to other teens.

Hopefully more initiatives like TPPI, that are aimed at addressing social issues such as unwanted teen births and high truancy rates, can follow TPPI’s lead and can use youth as part of the solution.  By educating youth and involving the youth in social reform, they can have greater success.

[1] Baltimore City Health Department; Teen Pregnancy Prevention; (2014);


[3]Meredith Cohn & Andrea K. Michaels; Teen pregnancies in Baltimore drop by a third; (February 24, 2015);

[4]WBAL-TV Baltimore; Baltimore’s teen pregnancy rate drops; (February 24, 2015);

[5] Baltimore City Health Department; Teen Pregnancy Prevention; (2014);

[6] Id.

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