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Utah Teen Moms Succeed Thanks to Innovative Program

Pregnant at age 15, Aura credits her participation in Latinas Adelante with changing her life for the better.

Oct. 17,2012 – More than 3,000 children were born to teen mothers in Utah in 2010.  Of those teen moms, 36 percent identified themselves as Hispanic.  But now, thanks to a research grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, the University of Utah College of Social Work is offering an innovative program, Latinas Adelante (Latinas Moving Forward), that may change the lives of teen moms, and their children, for the better.

Research shows that teen pregnancy increases the chances of living in poverty, low birth weights, higher infant mortality and decreased opportunities for educational achievement.  Latinas Adelante is an in-school and after-school intervention program designed to address these and other challenges for young Utahns at high risk of unhealthy lifestyles.

Over the next five years, through participation in this intensive two-year program, an anticipated total of 120 young Hispanic mothers will learn about personal development and wellness (including nutrition and exercise), life skills (such as decision making and problem solving), substance abuse prevention, reproductive health (including prevention of HIV, STDs, and unplanned pregnancy), injury prevention (related to dating violence and domestic abuse) and career development.

“Our goal is to offer these young mothers the support they need to see the possibility of a better life, along with the tools necessary to achieve their goals,” says Eileen Rojas, program coordinator and case manager for Latinas Adelante.  “We provide after-school tutoring, leadership training, mentoring, and even individual case management.”

Latinas Adelante is currently seeking qualified young Latina women to participate in the next phase of this study. Interested women must live in Salt Lake County, be a junior or senior in high school and be pregnant or have a child. Please call the University of Utah College of Social Work at 801-581-6079 for additional information.

The research grant funding Latinas Adelante – one of only six such grants awarded across the country – is the second grant from the Department of Health and Human Services to support this program.  Evaluation of the first three years of Latinas Adelante, which was offered at Salt Lake’s Horizonte Instruction and Training Center, has revealed significant and exciting results.

More than 72 percent of the 12th grade teen moms who enrolled in Latinas Adelante during graduated from high school, compared to only 15.5 percent of non-participating teen moms. Of those graduating participants, 75 percent enrolled in college. Repeat pregnancies occurred among 6.6 percent of participating teen moms within the two years they were in the program, while in Salt Lake County overall, 18 percent of Hispanic teen moms experienced repeat pregnancies over the same amount of time.

“We are encouraged by these initial findings,” says Rojas.  “For the second study, we’ve adjusted the program curriculum a bit in response to feedback from participants and study results. The development of evidence-based programs with proven track records are vital to the future success of these young women and their children.”

“I had one participant tell me she thought after getting pregnant, she would never accomplish anything,” says Rojas.  “It was incredibly gratifying to hear her say that Latinas Adelante changed her life, taught her to respect herself, helped her graduate from high school and enroll in Salt Lake Community College. She says she now believes anything is possible.”