The InSite: How long has T.A.P.P. been around?
Joan: For about 15 years. We have about 18 counselors and serve about 700 young people on any given day. Many young women find themselves confronted with an unplanned pregnancy. Though some are planned. We also serve young fathers-to-be as well.
TI: What do you do?
Joan: At first we sit down and help the young people sort out where they want to go and what they want to do. Because when they are faced with pregnancy it changes how they think about things. We don't make any assumptions that they have decided to do one thing or the other. We find out where they are in their lives and what kind of services they are needing. We look at what's going on with their school situation, financial situation, health care situation, and how they are feeling about the pregnancy.
TI: Do you deal with couples during pregnancy?
Joan: Sometimes. Sometimes the young woman is coming in and she doesn't have the father of the baby or a partner in the picture. Sometimes she does. We always extend services to the father-to-be, if he is age eligible [under 21]. Sometimes the couple comes in with relationship issues, and we work with them on problem solving and communication.
TI: Conflict resolution in a relationship is tricky enough without an unplanned pregnancy to deal with!
TI: With all the young people you serve, your offices must be pretty crowded.
Joan: Well, teens don't have to come in to our office in order to be part of T.A.P.P. They just have to be seen by their case manager periodically. We do a fair amount of our job out of the office. Case managers go out to schools. We see the young people in their homes. We see them at Burger King. Wherever! There are issues of transportation.
TI: Are there young people who have been through your program and now help other young people?
Joan: Yes! That would be our groups for young fathers and young mothers as well. The program for young mothers is called T.- R.A.P. P. (Teen Resources to Achieve Pregnancy Prevention). Through it young mothers go out into the middle schools to talk about the realities of teen pregnancy for the purpose of pregnancy prevention. The young fathers group is called T.T.C.B. (Together Taking Care of Business). After they graduate from the program a selected group of young fathers and fathers-to-be goes out and does peer education in the community. A lot of it is aimed at pregnancy prevention.
TI: Is this program for young men unique?
Joan: I think so. We see it as a tremendous need that has not been dealt with. All the dialogue about teen pregnancy and parenting usually pertains to teen mothers. But fifty percent of the issue around unwanted pregnancy is the responsibility of young males! And they have been treated like they are invisible. The young men who go through the program are asked to do a lot of out reach all around the state. The more outreach we do the more dialogue is open in the community about the issues of young fathers, pregnancy prevention, and male responsibility.
TI: What have been the results?
Joan: It seems like the presentations are making a big difference with the young people in the audiences in the way they think about pregnancy and parenting.
TI: Are young people getting pregnant because of lack of information?
Joan: There are a lot of issues involved in "why teens get pregnant." Some of it is about information. Certainly having education and access to birth control is crucial. But that is not the total issue. Sometimes it's failed birth control methods. Sometimes it's not seeing any other options for themselves. Or it's "what happens," like a rite of passage. Sometimes pregnancy is a result of a first sexual experience and not being aware that it could happen. Sometimes it's an attitude of: "This won't happen to me." Sometimes the pregnancy is a result of a "non-consensual" sexual act (rape) or the result of some sexual abuse. The issue is really complicated, and every young person has a different situation.
TI: What have been T.A.P.P.'s major successes?
Joan: There are certain things our program sets out to do. One is healthy babies. And we do that very successfully. We increase the birth weight of the babies. We also help reduce repeated pregnancies for our clients. We are fairly successful in providing information and alternatives to pregnancy. But there are a lot of forces in society and in the community that work against that. We are successful at helping young people stay in school. We also help them get information about being responsible parents. In terms of success, every day I come to work and I'm constantly amazed by what these young people are doing and the obstacles they are overcoming. Success is getting up at 6 in morning, taking baby to child care, going to school, attending support groups, getting support from other young people who are in the same situation. So we see successes on a day-to-day basis.