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Parent interest in teen pregnancy rises

Jeff Schmucker Hernando Today
Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 06:29 PM

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Standing in a room surrounded by women discussing intimacy, Carlo Daleo calmly did his part by standing in a line holding a laminated card showing one of roughly a dozen steps showing how a couple can go from eye contact to intercourse.

But the intimacy discussion isn't for Daleo's benefit, per se. Instead, he and other parents were attending a workshop earlier this month on teen pregnancy to discuss how fast their teen children can quickly escalate from seemingly innocent kissing to … well, not so innocent behavior.

Already an odd man out, Daleo was also not attending due to concern of a teenage daughter. Instead, the single dad was preparing himself for when his two sons, currently in elementary school, come of age.

"I'm driving my kids to school and we see two middle school kids making out on the sidewalk outside of the school," Daleo said. "What do I say to my kids? I'm a single dad and I don't have a mother figure to help out. I came here for more information because it's not just teenage girls who are out there having sex. I knew I needed to become more involved and this was very helpful."

The workshop, held during the annual youth summit at Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church, was one of the largest attended out of the various other similar workshops dealing with topics facing students, such as graduation and dropout rates, substance abuse, obesity and other challenges.

Tracy Echols, who organizes the annual summit, said more than any year prior, teen pregnancy discussions have attracted a growing number of those not only interested in attending the discussions, but also signing onto the committee slated to meet throughout the year to tackle the issue.

Cheryl Bennett, who works for New Generation, a nonprofit pregnancy resource center in Brooksville, said it isn't that more people are suddenly interested in teen pregnancy. Instead, she said parents are beginning to understand they should be more involved.

In the past two years, members of her group, along with the Dove Program, have worked together with girls in elementary and middle schools to develop their self-esteem.

By high school, abstinence-only discussions have been held for the past 10 years in classrooms to not only teach about sex, but also the different ways boys and girls view sex and each other.

"Kids are bombarded with so much when it comes to this issue. But what's truly amazing is that we tell kids not to drink. We tell them not to drink and drive and we tell them not to do drugs," Bennett said. "Everybody applauds these efforts. But when it comes to sex, many hand teenagers condoms."

Ali Baylor, who attended Bennett's seminar and discussion of Steps to Intimacy that lead to teenage sex, said one particular interest of hers involves more of girls' behavior rather than the boys.

"It's not that we don't need to discuss their behavior, but boys haven't really changed that much over the years. Guys have primarily always been willing to go further and girls were the ones who put on the brakes," Baylor said. "But somewhere along the way, girls have lost their way. We need to be building up their esteem more so they have the tools to say no."

The push by parents might come at an opportune time. Bennett said funding for in-school visits was cut and for the first time, her group likely won't be visiting the schools this academic year.

"Teachers are still calling and asking when we're coming, but that just may not be possible," Bennett said. "That's a shame because here at New Generation, we primarily help those who are pregnant, and going into the schools and educating students early is the best way to prevent them from having to come in and see us."

Meanwhile, those interested in becoming part of the teen pregnancy task force to discuss and tackle the issue throughout the year can join the committee by contacting Shauna Rose at (352) 540-6835. (352) 544-5271

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