State funding cut for Winston-Salem teen pregnancy program
WINSTON-SALEM — A Triad area program aimed at helping pregnant teenagers stay in school and care for their babies has seen its state funding slashed because of its abstinence-only stance.
North Carolina has cut $60,000 from the Hand to Hand program run by the Catholic Social Services office in Winston-Salem, in large part because of its abstinence-only sex education message, say program leaders. That represents 22 percent of the program's total annual operating budget. The program also lost the opportunity for a local grant of $30,000 for the same reason, they say.
"It is wrongly accepted that the best way to help parenting teens is to encourage the use of contraceptives," said Dr. Gerry Carter, acting executive director of Catholic Social Services. Governmental and private funding frequently requires the inclusion of comprehensive sex education, something which the program is unwilling to do because it contradicts Church teaching.
The 23-year-old Hand to Hand program assists pregnant teens with basic health and nutrition education, home visits and peer support, as well as help to stay in school and finish their education.
"Teen parents want to succeed, but there are so many obstacles that it's hard to hold onto that dream," said program director Becky DuBois.
"These teens have an incentive to be successful because we talk about what life could be. We teach them the joy of having their child, not simply the responsibility of it," added Diane Bullard, director of Catholic Social Services for the Piedmont Triad area. "These young parents made the right decision by choosing life for their children. The Hand to Hand program works to support these precious children once they arrive and face life's challenges."
Hand to Hand provides the encouragement and direction these teens need to pursue success in life, through long-term planning and goal setting – and others see proof of the results of the program.
"The graduation rate of teen parents who participate in (Hand to Hand), as well as getting some help from me, is higher than the graduation rate of teen parents who get help from me only," said Faith Lockwood, school social worker for teen parents and their families at Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.
The program's leaders refuse to lose hope, they said. Rather than think about closing down the program, they instead are looking for additional funding from new sources.
"This is an opportunity to take a fresh look at the program and to see how we can do an even better job of serving the teen mother, father and their child," Bullard said.
"Through funding from the United Way of Forsyth County, the Diocesan Support Appeal and private donations, we can continue to provide many basic services without interruption. However, the loss of funding has caused us to reduce critical staff that serve these parents and now the funding to provide much-needed specialized help for these parents has dwindled significantly," DuBois said.
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-- Mollie Gordon, correspondent
FROM THE PASTORS
Read and listen to homilies posted regularly by pastors at parishes within the Diocese of Charlotte:
- Fr. Frank Cancro at Queen of the Apostles
- Fr. Patrick Earl at St. Peter in Charlotte
- Fr. John Eckert at St. John the Baptist in Tryon
- Fr. Timothy Reid at St. Ann in Charlotte
- Fr. Benjamin Roberts at Our Lady of Lourdes in Monroe
- Fr. Patrick Winslow at St. Thomas Aquinas in Charlotte
- Watch full Masses live and on demand, listen to homilies and reflections from Sacred Heart Church in Salisbury
- Listen to homilies from St. William Catholic Church in Murphy