• The gap between rich and poor in Chicago, and around the nation, continues to widen with increased living costs and higher amounts of individual debt, coupled with fewer high-paying jobs. President Obama has brought the issue of “income inequality” to the forefront, bringing greater attention to the need to address the “deficit of opportunity” through such measures as an increase in the minimum wage, more investment in education, and a stronger social safety net.
• Additionally, a recent CNN series brought greater awareness of the crime gap in Chicago, where in less than a few miles, neighborhoods can morph from six-figure luxury condos to some of the most gang-ridden streets in America.
• While the U.S. teen birth rate has declined over the past 20 years, the figure remains high with more than 300,000 babies born to females ages 15-19 in 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Becoming a teen mother has a significant impact on the individual’s prospects for success as half of teen mothers never graduate high school and a quarter have a second child within 24 months.
• Against a backdrop of rising poverty and violence rates in Illinois, and recognizing the impact of becoming a teen mother and repeat pregnancies in particular, Options for Youth (OFY) offers two programs that help put youth in Illinois on a trajectory towards success. OFY helps teens graduate from high school, delay second pregnancies and stop the cycle of domestic violence, gang involvement and teen pregnancy through two distinct programs: Illinois Subsequent Pregnancy Program (SPP) and Peer Advocates for Health (PAH).
• SPP provides integrated services to young mothers who have their first child before the age of 18. The program model includes ongoing, individualized support through a personal relationship with a Home Visitor coupled with training at bi-monthly group meetings. The program also utilizes a peer-to-peer education program, where in the second year of SPP, students are eligible to participate in an eight-week training class and become peer educators. Peer educators teach others in program lessons on sexual health and how to delay a second pregnancy. They also work with their communities to promote sexual health knowledge.
• PAH is a community-based program for African-American adolescent males. The goals of the program are to improve reproductive health knowledge, promote healthy lifestyle choices and increase utilization of clinic services. PAH provides training through an eight-week summer session followed by weekly group meetings throughout the school year.
OFY has a track record of nearly 25 years of success. The statistics demonstrating this success and the testimonials from program participants are a compelling reason for potential donors to become involved with an organization that has already shown what it can accomplish, even with limited funds.