Posted by Ryan Morgan on April 10, 2013 at 9:44 AM
By: Naomi Farber MSW Ph.D. & Sarah Pilgrim BSW, MSW, Ph.D.
Naomi Farber, MSW, Ph.D. has worked in the areas of teenage pregnancy prevention and services to teen parents for many years. She has conducted research and published widely on early sexual activity, pregnancy and childbearing, and more generally in the area of family formation in the context of rural and urban poverty.
Sarah Pilgrim BSW, MSW, Ph.D. has worked the field of child development, teenage pregnancy, at-risk pregnancy, and child welfare (specifically with adolescents) for a number of years. Her current scholarship includes a completed dissertation focused on the sexual health and decision making of adolescents residing in foster care as well as a number of community presentations concentrated on the unique attributes of adolescent development.
The Comprehensive Health Education Act (CHEA) passed in 1988 provides the foundation for comprehensive sexual health education in the state of South Carolina and includes provisions for comprehensive and reproductive health education as well as pregnancy prevention and family life education (South Carolina General Law, Chapter 32§ Section Number 59-32-9 1988). Currently, CHEA is in need of an overhaul that will provide the youth of South Carolina with sexual health education that is medically accurate, has strong curriculum oversight, and stronger training for the trainers. These much needed upgrades to CHEA are exactly what the H. 3435 Health Youth Amendment provides for the youth of South Carolina.
Comprehensive sexual health education has shown to be beneficial to the growth of young children and adolescents regarding their sexual health, emotional and social development, as well as a future planning prospective (Chin, et al., 2012). More specifically, comprehensive sexual health education impacts risk reduction in children and adolescents who are considered at-risk for acquiring unplanned and unwanted pregnancies and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) including Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) (Chin, et al., 2012).
The Status of Children in South Carolina
Children in South Carolina experience multiple forms of disadvantage that place them at high risk of adverse outcomes:
- • Approximately one-fourth of children in South Carolina are below the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) and an additional 24 percent are at or below 200 percent of the FPL.
- • Almost half of the children residing in South Carolina (498,925) currently reside in low-incomes households as defined by the FPL.
- • Of the 48 percent of children in South Carolina who live in low-income households, 55 percent of these children have one parent that is either underemployed or unemployed.
- • Sixty percent of the children who live in low-income households also live in one-parent households.
- • 70 percent of African American and 70 percent of Hispanic children currently residing in South Carolina live in low-income households (National Center for Children in Poverty, 2012).
These attributes put children at high risk of unplanned or unwanted pregnancies, fathering of children and of acquiring STI’s including HIV/AIDS (Stanton, Li, Ricardo, Galbraith, Feigelman, & Kaljee, 1996). There is strong evidence that group-based comprehensive sexual health education is effective in reducing youths’ risk of unplanned and unwanted pregnancies and STI infections including HIV/AIDS (Chin, et al., 2012). With such a significant number of South Carolina’s children at risk of such compromised well-being, it is important that the community deploy the most effective method of educating our youth about their sexual health and development.
Social Work Support of Comprehensive Sexual Health Education
As social work practitioners the idea that “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” (WHO, 1946, p. 2) runs parallel to the holistic continuum of prevention and intervention approaches utilized by social workers to meet the unique needs of the diverse population of children in the United States and more specifically South Carolina. Comprehensive sexual health education provides a holistic approach to education and that respects differences within emotional, social, and sexual developmental processes of children. Comprehensive sexual health education allows for choice, some basic tenets of social work practice. The profession of social work has never endorsed the idea that “one size fits all.” Rather, we embrace the ideas that children have different learning styles, develop at different paces, and should have equal opportunities and access to services. Comprehensive sexual health education as presented in H. 3435 provides a set of “life skills” or tools that will assist in the provision of opportunities to children who face multiple environmental issues which create “at-risk” life circumstances for them.
So what can we do? As social work professionals:
- 1. We should adhere to our ethical obligations as professionals and champion best practices for the youth of South Carolina.
- 2. Support ideas that are shown to be beneficial to the growth and emotional, social, and sexual health development of children and adolescents.
- 3. Support Tell Them in their support of H. 3435 The Health Youth Amendment.
Join the movement, and support progress. The youth of South Carolina are counting on your support.
Chin, H., Sipe T.A., Elder, R., Mercer, S.L., Chattopadhyay, S.K., Jacob, V., Wethington, H.R., Kirby, D., Elliston, D.B., Griffith, M., Chuke, S.O., Briss, S.C., Ericksen, I., Glabraith, J.S., Herbst, J.H., Johnson, R.L., Kraft, J.M., Noar, S.M., Romero, L.M., & Santelli, J. (2012). The effectiveness of group-based comprehensive risk-reduction and abstinence education interventions to prevent or reduce the risk of adolescent pregnancy, Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Sexually Transmitted Infections: Two systematic reviews for the Guide to Community Preventative Services. American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 42(3), 272 – 294.
South Carolina General Law, Chapter 32§ Section Number 59-32-9 1988
Stanton, Li, Ricardo, Galbraith, Feigelman, & Kaljee (1996). Archive of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine, 150(4):363-372
World Health Assemblies, (1946). Constitution of The World Health Organization. New York.