Pregnancy centers offer a beacon of hope and help to those in need. Desperation can turn to optimism with the reality that someone cares and will help provide all the needs (physically, emotionally and spiritually) that the parents and the unborn baby will require. There is a need for pregnancy centers to continue to provide life-affirming decisions and expanded services to address a society that is increasingly hostile to life issues.
Pregnancy centers are wonderful places to receive information about fetal development, community resources, mentoring, and parenting skills, as well as receiving the basic needs for a baby throughout their first year or two of life. Most importantly, clients are also introduced to the God of all hope.
Have you ever considered that the opportunity to present the beauty and value of life can also be outside of the pregnancy center? Our centers offer a band aid for a choice that was made – what if we went to the source of the issue? Our young people are coming in through our doors with “I didn’t know! No one ever told me!” statements. Through education we can provide information to youth and our communities that encourage and empower them to be the generation that says, “I want to do better.” We can provide the answers to “why wait” with social science and relationship training and equip them with the information, refusal skills and boundary setting skills required to wait. An end result could be fewer young people requiring our services because they are choosing to wait for a committed, faithful and monogamous relationship which provides a more secure foundation for parenting as well as lowering their health risks.
There are many SRA (Sexual Risk Avoidance) programs being taught in schools across the states, and many are housed in and through pregnancy centers. When God’s design for sexuality is the standard, there is freedom from consequences. Our culture tells us that sex is no big deal and consequences can be dealt with, yet we see increasingly unhealthy physical and emotional health outcomes. We have watched a decline in morality, a bombardment of standards and a renewed “anything goes as long as it works for you” attitude. There is a hardening of hearts to the life message, increased gender dysphoria, sexual confusion, redefinition of the terms family and monogamy, and celebrities “celebrating” their abortions. With an increase in immorality, there is a breakdown of the family and devaluing of human life. We need the reminder that life is precious.
The truth about life and healthy choices resonates with many students. We want young people to be aware of how life begins and of the stages of development a baby goes through. We want them to realize a baby isn’t just a clump of cells until it is born. Sharing the wonder and beauty of a developing life is such a joy! Taking the pregnancy information into the classroom provides a rare opportunity to impact many students. Some have made poor choices; some are desperate for information; some are hardened already; some are on the verge of making a decision that could hurt them. It is a gift to have the opportunity to speak truth into a young person’s life about their sexual choices and their inherent value and worth, and to empower them with skills to make healthy decisions.
Providing sex education in the schools can also extend beyond teaching about pregnancy. At each stage of development, young people need information to navigate decision-making for their bodies but also for their relationships.
Presentations can include:
Differences between infatuation, lust and love
Importance of guarding our hearts
Boundaries and refusal skills
Pornography and sexting
Relationship foundations including friendship
Healthy relationship building
Dating and marriage
All youth, similar to our clients, need the knowledge, skills, and encouragement to make choices about relationships and sex that will lead them toward optimal health and life success. Teaching a positive and healthy approach to sexual risk avoidance techniques will encourage healthy relationships and goal-setting. It allows youth to build skills to resist pressure and have confidence in healthy decision-making models. All youth deserve a bright future and success, regardless of their current life circumstances, past choices or their lived experiences. Teens are listening and responding by waiting for sex. More today than any other time in recent history! Let’s not give up on our youth and help them with skills to eliminate – not simply reduce – sexual risk.
Sexual risk avoidance (SRA) programs focus on the whole person by sharing the importance of healthy decision-making to future life outcomes that result in optimal health. SRA is a sex education approach based on a recognized and often-used public health model known as “risk avoidance” or “primary prevention.” It is the standard approach used to address risk behaviors such as underage drinking and smoking and is entirely appropriate and beneficial in addressing the risk of teen sex. It differs from a “risk reduction” model in that it seeks to help individuals eliminate all risk as opposed to simply reducing risk. Sexual Risk Reduction (SRR), often called “comprehensive” sex education, is primarily focused on increasing contraceptive use among teens. The SRR approach normalizes teen sex and is considered a “secondary prevention” strategy. There are vast differences between SRA education and SRR comprehensive sex education models. The major distinction is how each approach regards teens. SRA education believes teens can avoid sex, and CDC trend data shows, in increasing numbers, they are doing so. Discussions empower teens to make the healthy decision to wait for sex regardless of their previous sexual experience. By contrast, SRR programs assume that teens can’t or won’t avoid sexual experimentation, so their education is mostly about sex, condom use and other forms of contraception with a view to simply reduce, rather than eliminate, sexual risk among teens.
If you feel called to expand your services beyond the center to the schools, there are some steps that need to be taken. These will differ dependent on the county or area of the state you reside in and are general recommendations.
Research the available programs in your county or state
Look for instructors who are medically certified or have a passion for serving with youth
Have local statistics for pregnancy and STIs available
Ensure that all teaching points and statistics are cited from medically accurate sources
Obtain certification for teaching a SRA program. It is available through the national organization Ascend. (weascend.org)
Speak to a health instructor or an administrator in your district to see what is currently being taught
Arrange for a meeting with the superintendent or principal to present the program you are proposing
Determine the program cost and how it will be funded
Present the program to the sexual health advisory board in your school district (by law each district must have one)
Present the program to the current health instructors
Be prepared to present at a public school board meeting. The public must be informed that a new program is being considered. (It may also be a separate presentation from the regular school board schedule); once approval is obtained, begin preparation work in earnest! Brochures, business cards, website, social media, emails, pre/posttests, power points, and teaching tools can all be prepared.
Bathe everything in prayer
If you are interested in starting a sexual risk avoidance program through your center please reach out!
Evelyn Van Sloten, SRAS www.shareforyou.org firstname.lastname@example.org
Evelyn Van Sloten has been working with Crossroads Care Center since 2004. She serves as the Director of Education for Crossroads and for the SHARE program outreach in many school communities within Oakland County, Michigan. (www.shareforyou.org) In addition to reaching students in the schools, SHARE programming also reaches out to parent, church and community groups. Evelyn loves to work with youth and others in the journey of raising the next generation to develop high standards and convictions.