UNLV Lincy Institute Scholar Ramona Denby-Brinson, the Clark County Department of Family Services and a host of community partners have launched a five-year project to reduce teen pregnancy rates among children in Nevada's foster system. The first-of-its-kind project is funded through a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Nevada has the 10th-highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation. Rates of teen pregnancy are even higher among foster children, a population already at high-risk for homelessness, mental health disorders, substance abuse and other problems because of family and other environmental conditions that led to their entry into the child welfare system
"These kids are already in the foster system dealing with emotional and other issues; imagine adding a baby to this mix," said Denby-Brinson, a senior resident scholar with The Lincy Institute at UNLV. "We're trying to address the larger issue of teen pregnancy by looking at a population that typically gets very little attention."
During the five-year project, approximately 200 foster teens and their caregivers will participate in a range of programming to build skills that break down psychological barrier and contribute to healthy, positive relationships. Foster teens will be paired with adult mentors who were also once in foster care to develop positive support systems. They will also take part in sexual education and grief counseling sessions, and their caregivers will undergo training to identify potential grief and loss issues that may manifest themselves through negative behaviors.
"Foster children may be drawn to parenthood due to a psychological yearning for closeness and contact that stems from their own grief and loss from poor or broken family relationships," said Denby-Brinson. "We're trying to get to the core of these issues to improve their well-being and help them lead successful lives."
Grant partners will also develop an ongoing network of services for children that builds on the strengths of each partner to ensure sustainability beyond the five-year grant. Core partners on the project include The Lincy Institute at UNLV, the Clark County Department of Family Services, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, the Southern Nevada Health District, Nevada State Health Division, Olive Crest, SAFY of Nevada, and Turning Point Experience (Spirit Program).
Teaming with the community to support vulnerable youth in Clark County aligns with the mission of The Lincy Institute at UNLV, which is to work directly with the community to address large-scale challenges in the areas of education, health, information technology and social services. The Lincy Institute, established in 2010, conducts and supports research that will be used to build capacity for community service providers and enhance efforts to draw state and federal money to greater Las Vegas.
The Lincy Institute welcomes the involvement of the UNLV community on the research aspect of this project as well as other Lincy Institute community engagement activities. For more information, visit The Lincy Institute at UNLV.