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Title: Policy vs. Practice: An Assessment of 2012 Federal Recommendations for Pregnant & Parenting Teen Programs in Schools
Authors: Ravida, Gabriella
Advisors: Armstrong, Betsy
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Class Year: 2015
Abstract: This thesis focuses on how schools support their pregnant and parenting teens (PPTs) through programming and resources. Historically, teen pregnancy was not always considered a social problem; however, the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s signaled an increase in sexually active teens and pregnancies and births to unmarried teens. This led to a social and moral fear of an “epidemic” of teen pregnancy and parenting. After enduring years of exclusion from public school programs, Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments forced schools to offer programs for PPTs, but did not describe what programs should and should not include. Consequently, this thesis addresses policy recommendations enumerated in the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Adolescent Health’s 2012 expert panel workgroup called What Works for Pregnant and Parenting Teens. These recommendations, known as Promising Strategies and Existing Gaps in Supporting Pregnant and Parenting Teens (known as the HHS recommendations in this paper), advise programs on strategies proven to be successful methods to support PPTs. In response to these recommendations, this research centers on the question: how accurately do PPT program recommendations from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reflect the real world settings at four public high schools with different geographic locations and student body demographics? With this comparison, this thesis outlines points of agreement and separation between school practices and HHS policies while making suggestions for how to improve the HHS recommendations to better support teens. Data was collected from a series of in-depth, semi-structured interviews with school officials and PPTs from two public high schools in Pennsylvania and two public high schools in New Jersey. These participants described their experiences as or with PPTs in their respective schools, and they spoke to concepts mentioned in the HHS recommendations to explain how topics functioned in their schools. Interviews were conducted in-person or over the phone, and were partially transcribed with the consent of participants. Evident from this research are the differing needs of pregnant teens and parenting teens, various schools’ attitudes towards PPTs and PPT issues, and diverse reactions to the HHS recommendations. Findings reveal two distinct approaches that these schools take when supporting PPTs, integration and accommodation, as well as concordances, gaps, and tensions between the recommendations and the actual practices of the schools. Concordances include programming about diversity, setting joint goals, recognizing triggers, maintaining flexible perspectives of family structures, utilizing a holistic approach, and sustaining staff morale. Tensions include involving fathers and recognizing failure. Gaps include lack of PPTs on the expert panel, little consideration of the aforementioned approaches, insufficient emphasis on childcare, and scarce mention of emotional support. Analysis of the in-depth interviews allows this thesis to suggest improvements to account for the gaps and tensions in the recommendations. Such improvements are a PPT focus group, a renewed emphasis on childcare and emotional support, and a restructured program curriculum that redefines the role of fathers and failure.
Extent: 122 pages
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Woodrow Wilson School, 1929-2017

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