Supporting Teen Parents without Shame

Lisette Orellana

Lisette Orellana

When I was 15 years old, I dreamed of changing the world. I don’t know what I was going to do—or how—but I knew that I’d make the world  better one day. I was a great student, and teachers always said I had a bright future ahead of me…until I got pregnant. I was in all honors classes, had a 4.0 GPA, but I was pregnant, and all the dreams I had were no longer going to be possible according to the adults in my life because well, I was going to be changing diapers instead.

Fast forward 11 years: I’m a 26-year old college graduate raising two amazing children. I’m employed by one of the most respected nonprofits in the world, and I’m pursuing a Master’s degree in Public Administration. Over the last decade, I’ve been busy working with organizations that specifically work to support young parents. I’ve become an advocate about the issues affecting women and girls, and I have taken part in the development of campaigns that seek to raise awareness of the discrimination that teen mothers still face.

Enter my most recent involvement: speaking out against the disgraceful campaign PSA’s developed by the Candie’s Foundation.

Recently the Candie’s Foundation released a few ads that seek to shame teen parents—especially teen mothers. I’m not a stranger to these kinds of ads. A few months ago, the City of New York released posters all over the city with images of children that were so inappropriate, the campaign sparked much debate. The Candie’s Foundation is doing the same thing by assuming teen mothers have reached the end of the road and have no future. A slogan in their ad, “You’re supposed to be changing the world, not diapers,” has raised a lot of controversy—and, in my case, much disappointment.

I was told that exact same thing by a person I love very much. She didn’t believe in me and felt so sorry for my situation. But contrary to this dismal outlook, being a teen parent meant that I was going to need a little more support and encouragement to meet my goals. I was going to have to take a different road to reach the same destination as my peers without children: success. It is frustrating to me to see adults, as our role models, set this precedent of judging others because of their situations. It saddens me that despite the fact that there are laws in place (like Title IX), people still look at these ads and forget that teen parents are people, too. The Candie’s Foundation and its approach are shameful because the message is that teen parents will not make any valuable contributions to their communities. If anything, these young people will be loving parents to another human being and that is an accomplishment on its own.

I will continue to work with a group of young mothers who, like me, are working hard in their communities to support teen mothers. These young women are bloggers, professionals, and community activists who, like me, had their children early in life. There are thousands of us all over the country and we’re all leaving our mark. As far as the six of us, we’re working hard to deliver a petition to the Candie’s Foundation and ask for these ads and these tactics to be stopped. We’re doing all this gracefully because after all, that’s what leaders do.

Lisette Y. Orellana is a Blogger, Girls & Young Moms Advocate, and Public Speaker

What is your response to campaigns like the ones by the Candies Foundation and the City of New York?

How do we change the conversation, so that messages supporting delaying and spacing childbearing do not shame or vilify teen parents?

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Where Do Men Fit In Women’s Health Care?

Pat Paluzzi, DrPH

Pat Paluzzi, DrPH

Sunday is Father’s Day, and I find myself reflecting on where men fit in women’s health care. A few months ago, I attended a consortium of professionals working on a women’s reproductive health advocacy agenda. At one point, I (quietly) mentioned that perhaps maternal-child health should be called family health, so men are included and was (quietly, but firmly) shut down by the woman sitting on my right.

I was left wondering if I am too old to do this work? Or perhaps, have I softened with age and lost my ardent feminism, or is it that I have been around long enough to believe that including men does not take away from women?

I have been working in women’s reproductive health since before abortion was legal and the pill was readily available. I was providing clinical work when the debates over Title X dollars being used for men began, and I took advantage by adding male services to my public health clinics; no loss to women occurred (in all fairness, neither did we see a surge of men coming in, but some did and mostly with their female partners). I have kept up with the research that supports the positive role of men in family planning, healthy pregnancies, and birth outcomes, and I have formed some opinions as I have watched the field unfold over the past 40 years, and this I know—fathers matter, men matter, and excluding them is not good public health.

Perhaps you think differently, and I love a good debate. So please tell me what you think? Am I older and wiser, or just older? How can we continue to blame men for unplanned pregnancies and being absentee fathers if we don’t address their needs?

How can we better support men’s role in women’s reproductive health?

Pat Paluzzi, DrPH, is the President/CEO of Healthy Teen Network.

Meet the Trainers (Part 2)

A couple weeks ago, we introduced you to some of Healthy Teen Network’s incredible professionals who provide training and technical assistance (Meet the Trainers). As promised, we are back with answers to another question we posed to Deb, Mila, Alex, and Mousumi. Play the videos below to see what each had to say when asked about the most enjoyable aspects of providing technical assistance!







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