Ruth McRoy, Ph.D.
Carol Lewis, Ph.D.
Austin Learning Academy (ALA) is a private, non-profit agency that provides family literacy programs in areas of Austin, TX that show lower per capita income, higher levels of poverty, and higher levels of unemployment, with a focus on zip codes 78702, 78744, and 78745. This agency has worked in close collaboration with Austin Independent School District (AISD) to implement the family literacy model. Components of this model include: Head Start and Even Start programs (early childhood education, adult literacy training, parenting training); technology training (computer literacy, Internet and Web access and training); academic enrichment programs in school for children and teens; and community service learning activities.
ALA has identified teen pregnancy as a barrier to educational success. In 1999, the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department (HHS) reported that the State of Texas had the third highest birth rate for young women of ages 13-17. Further, HHS reported that approximately 900 young women aged 13-17 have live births, abortions, or fetal deaths each year in Travis County. The majority of these young women live in a 10 contiguous zip code region that forms a crescent along the south, east, and northeast edges of Austin. In 1997, women aged 13-17 accounted for a disproportionate number of births in all but one of these zip codes; this over-representation was especially apparent in the 78702, 78744, and 78721 zip codes. Although the 1997 statistics showed that the majority of youth in Travis County were white, the vast majority of births to women aged 13-17 were in families of color.
In response to concerns about the effects of teen pregnancy and parenting on education, ALA, in collaboration with AISD and other community-based agencies, applied for and received a Care/Prevention/Abstinence Education grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Adolescent Pregnancy Programs (OAPP) to fund the Adolescent Family Life Care (AFLC) demonstration project. This project addresses issues of teen pregnancy prevention and support for teen parents through enhancement of existing services and improving service delivery coordination among community agencies in the Austin area. AISD has implemented the Pregnancy, Education, and Parenting (PEP) program in three high schools. The AFLC demonstration grant will build upon and enhance this existing program. Funding for the grant began in the summer of 2001 and will continue for five years.
The AFLC project has the following goals: 1) 85% of all pregnant or parenting adolescents in the program will return to school or will obtain a GED; 2) within two years of giving birth to an infant, 10% or less of teen mothers in the program will have another birth; 3) 95% of target infants will be fully immunized by age two; 4) 75% of teen parents who participate in the program will report a substantial increase in parent care-giving activities after one year; 5) 95% of the children who participate in the program will show progress on standardized assessment instruments of child development. The target populations for the project are: 1) pregnant adolescents and adolescent parents under age 19 with emphasis on unmarried adolescents who are age 17 or younger; 2) families of these adolescents, including the babies’ fathers.
Services funded through the AFLC project include direct and indirect services. Directly provided services include case management, parent support, parent education, and transportation. Indirect services will be provided primarily through referral to collaborating agencies. These services include pregnancy testing and maternity counseling; primary and preventive health services (includes prenatal and postnatal care), adoption information, vocational services, mental health services, and family planning services. Project funding will allow for the addition of several staff positions, including a program director, a case manager, enhanced medical case management, and a teen parent educator. Other allied positions not directly funded by this grant, but working closely with its staff, include ALA’s executive director, a curriculum specialist, an early childhood teacher, and classroom teachers.
In implementing the AFLC project, ALA is interested in developing a self-correcting model to address issues related to teen pregnancy prevention and teen parent support. Fundamental to this goal is the need for ongoing program evaluation to provide feedback to ALA and its collaborative partners. Currently, no comprehensive evaluation plan exists to conduct evaluation. The purpose of the existing contract between ALA and the University of Texas at Austin, Center for Social Work Research (CSWR) is the development of such a plan.
Austin Learning Academy, Austin, TX
Keywords: child welfare, families, children, youth