The Evaluation of Abstinence Education Programs Funded Under Title V Section 510: Interim Report . Early Implementation and Operational Lessons

04/01/2002

The first four years of Section 510 funding for abstinence education have generated a wealth of experience on how local grantees have designed and implemented abstinence education programs.  Among the early lessons are the following:

  1. Section 510 abstinence funds are changing the local landscape of approaches to teenage pregnancy prevention and youth risk avoidance.  Despite an initial debate in some states over whether and how to spend abstinence education block grant funds, all states applied for funding at some point, and most are using monies in innovative ways to promote abstinence from sexual activity as the healthiest choice for youth.
  2. Most abstinence education programs offer more than a single message of abstinence.  Examples of curricula and program components from sites participating in the federally funded evaluation indicate the diverse, creative, and often complex nature of many initiatives.
Common Curriculum Topics of Abstinence Programs
Participating in the Impact Evaluation
Building Self-Esteem Preventing STDs
Developing Values/Character Traits Withstanding Social and Peer Pressure
Formulating Goals Addressing Consequences/Self-Control
Making Decisions Resolving Sexual Conflicts
Avoiding Risky Behavior Learning Etiquette and Manners
Maximizing Communication Aspiring to Marriage
Strengthening Relationships Understanding Parenthood
Understanding Development and Anatomy  
  1. Most participants report favorable feelings about their program experience.  Youth respond especially positively to staff who show strong and unambiguous commitment to the program message.  They also like programs that deliver an intensive set of youth development services to enhance and support the abstinence message.
  2. Abstinence education programs face real challenges addressing peer pressure and the communication gulf between parents and children.  Sexual activity often elicits only casual mention among youth, and is tolerated and even promoted by their peer culture.  Many programs attempt to address peer pressure through parents.  Yet, engaging parents has proven to be extremely challenging.
  3. Local schools are valuable program partners, but establishing these partnerships is sometimes difficult.  Their broad access to youth makes schools logical and important partners for many programs, but some schools resist collaboration with abstinence programs.  Sometimes schools resist because of competing priorities; at other times, resistance stems from debate about health and sex education policies.