In March 2005, United Way of Washington County convened a meeting of community stakeholders who might play a role in creating better outcomes for County youth and families. These stakeholders agreed to meet to study the teen pregnancy issue and became the core membership of the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Task Force.
In September 2005, the Washington County Community Partnership for Children and Families funded a teen pregnancy needs assessment to become better informed about the culture of teen pregnancy in the County. The needs assessment findings and recommendations were the result of surveying local teens and parents about teen sexual activity and other risk behaviors, adult and teen experiences talking with each other about sex, adult supervision of teens and parents awareness of their children’s sexual activity. The Task Force agreed to move forward with implementation strategies.
In January 2006, a consultant was hired to work with the Task Force in implementing the various strategies. This position was funded for six months by the Washington County Health Department. United Way of Washington County and the Washington County Health System funded the position for an additional six months. From April, 2007 until July, 2007, the consultant’s position was funded by one-time-only funds from the Washington County Community Partnership for Children and Families. Beginning July, 2007, the Coalition was awarded a three year grant from the Community Partnership for Children and Families to fund a part time Coalition Director position. The Washington County Commissioners allocated $14,800 beginning July, 2007 to cover the Coalition’s day-to-day operating expenses. The Community Action Council serves as the Coalition’s fiscal agent for these and any other funds awarded the Coalition.
Beginning in the fall, 2006 the Task Force initiated a strategic planning process and as a result of that planning, the name of the Task Force was changed to Coalition, and the mission was rewritten to expand from working to reduce teen births to working to reduce teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. Additionally, it was decided that the Coalition should initiate proceedings to establish itself as a 501(c) (3) to facilitate the Coalition’s ability to write grants to sustain its work. The Coalition’s vision “is to impact a generation of adolescents encouraging them to become responsible adults who will positively influence future generations.”
The Washington County Teen Pregnancy Prevention Task Force brought together concerned parents and youth and individuals from the business, education, faith, medical, social service and non-profit communities to create and implement strategies to impact the County’s high teen birth rate. It is from this body of community representation that the Coalition’s Board membership was developed.
A Teen Advisory Group (TAG) was organized in the fall of 2006 to encourage youth guidance on Coalition activities. Two members of the TAG are elected members of the Coalition’s Board.
The Coalition was legally incorporated March 30, 2007. The Coalition achieved non profit status with the IRS in August, 2007.
In September, 2007 the Coalition moved into office space donated by a local business person. The Coalition’s office is located at 88 West Lee Street, Hagerstown, MD.
In Spring 2010, The Board of Directors voted to change the name from Washington County Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition to Teens Have Choices. Besides being shorter, the new DBA better represents our expanded vision of impacting teens in many of the choices they face– drinking, smoking, “sexting,” dating violence– which can in turn impact their risk of pregnancy. Despite changing our name, our main goal is still to reduce teen pregnancies and STIs.
- The Coalition brings together concerned parents, youth and individuals from the business, education, faith, medical, social service and non-profit communities to create and implement strategies to impact the County’s high teen birth rate and incidence of sexually transmitted diseases. A Teen Advisory Group (TAG) was created to facilitate youth guidance on Coalition strategies.
- A volunteer speaker’s bureau has presented to numerous community groups to raise awareness about the high teen birth rate and the consequences of teen parenthood for the mother, father, child and community.
- Coordinated a local “Wise Guys” training for professionals in the County to impact male youth sexual responsibility.
- Organized a Teen Advisory Group (TAG) to encourage youth guidance on Coalition activities. TAG activities include serving as teen judges for our Ad and Film Contest, planning and facilitating the Ad and Film Contest awards ceremony, developing morning announcements for the high schools regarding an on line pregnancy prevention quiz day, and developing a “Teens Have Choices” Jeopardy game to use in multiple venues. Two members of the TAG are elected members of the Coalition’s Board.
- The Coalition orchestrates Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month activities. Local activities include banners advertising a teen pregnancy prevention educational online quiz; wristbands, tattoos, pens and informational materials distributed to youth in the schools and community advertising the quiz; proclamations from the County Commissioners and City of Hagerstown declaring May Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month; newspaper, television, cable, radio and magazine coverage regarding teen pregnancy consequences.
- Partners with public school, health department and Girl’s Inc. staff to deliver informational assemblies for ninth graders and their parents to inform them about the County’s high teen birth rate, sexually transmitted infections incidence, consequences of both and prevention information and resources.
- Created a free parent toolkit to assist adults in overcoming the challenges they feel having a conversation with their children about sex. Toolkits and a poster advertising the toolkits were delivered to local physician’s offices. Toolkits are available to anyone on request.
- Created an ad and film contest involving local youth ages 13 to 21to produce print ads, 30-second video ads and 10 minute short films to help spread the Coalition’s teen pregnancy prevention message. One hundred and forty youth from local middle and high schools and colleges submitted entries. The winning entries are being aired and displayed in the local media and public schools and are available to anyone on request.
- Partners with the Washington County Health System to offer fun and informational seminars for families including presentations about the risks and consequences of teen sexual behavior and support in talking about sex, values and relationships.
- Partnered with the faith community in bringing a faith-based sexuality “Just Say Know” curriculum workshop to the County. Teams of adults from thirteen local churches attended the training and are orchestrating workshops in their churches. The possibility of a summer camp for youth entering the ninth grade focusing on teen sexuality issues is in the initial planning stages for the summer of 2009.
- Offered a seminar for human resource professionals and business owners through a partnership with the Greater Hagerstown Committee offering ideas to the participants about how the business community can support the Coalition in achieving our mission.
- The Washington County Teen Pregnancy Prevention, Inc. was legally incorporated March 30, 2007. In August, 2007 the Coalition achieved 501(C) (3) non-profit status from the IRS.