- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 23, 2003

The D.C. public school system is on the verge of teaming with the nonprofit Teen Alliance for Prepared Parenting (TAPP) to help prevent teenagers from having repeat pregnancies.

“We have proposed a memorandum of understanding between us and the school system, a joint effort in education that will, hopefully, be a really good thing for them and us,” said TAPP program director Loral Patchen.

Teen pregnancies in the District have fallen from a high of 238.7 per 1,000 girls ages 15 to 19 in 1993 to 81.4 per 1,000 girls in 2000, according to the D.C. Campaign for Teen Pregnancy. The national average for teen pregnancies is 94.3 per 1,000 girls.

About 23 percent of the District’s teen pregnancies are repeat cases, according to the D.C. Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, a nonprofit that seeks to halve the city’s teen-pregnancy rate by 2005.

The memorandum of understanding between D.C. schools and TAPP involves five high schools and the nonprofit group’s division at the Washington Hospital Center in Northwest. The participating high schools are Anacostia and Ballou in Southeast, Bell Multicultural and Wilson in Northwest, and Cardozo in Northeast.

“The schools that are included in the understanding were picked mainly because most of our girls attend these schools and because of the schools’ student-pregnancy rates,” said Stacey Coats, TAPP program coordinator. “Now the MOU [memorandum of understanding] is a way for us to formalize a relationship with the schools,” she said.

Under the agreement, special classes will be provided for teen mothers during school hours. TAPP officials say a class on reproduction with limited subject matter will be offered to the general population of the schools. Classes on handling issues surrounding teen pregnancy also will be offered to faculty.

“The MOU has already been approved and signed by the hospital, and we expect Superintendent Paul Vance to sign it by the end of the month,” said Miss Coats.

Under the agreement, the schools will become the primary referral force for TAPP.

“TAPP will be a great addition to the teen-pregnancy programs we already have in place with the Department of Health,” said Jennifer Regins, health administrator for D.C. Public Schools.

“We want TAPP to be an integral part of the schools, because we believe if students receive that kind of support, it will help them to complete school,” said Miss Regins.

The Upper Cardozo TAPP program provides 253 girls with prenatal care, life-skills training and group discussions. Aside from the medical appointments and the scheduled parenting classes, the teen moms meet once a week for group sessions where they discuss current affairs, the problems their generation faces, and their solutions to those problems.

In addition to the educational component, TAPP functions as a support system for many of the girls.

“We get calls in the middle of the night about whether the baby can be given juice, and it’s OK because many of these girls don’t have anyone else to ask,” said Rubina Mason, a registered nurse and health educator for the program.

“Everyone here is great. We talk about everything from labor planning to what life is going to be like with a newborn. I learned a lot from TAPP. I even learned how to knit,” said Tatiyonna Johnson, 16, a sophomore at Bell Multicultural High School, whose baby is due Tuesday.

TAPP also offers help to the fathers that accompany the teen moms to their prenatal visits, officials said. The fathers are given parenting classes and any assistance they need in getting a job or completing school.

“I just try to connect with them and help them understand how important their roles are as fathers,” said Yerodine Avent, director of youth development for TAPP.

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