Delaware: Birds and Bees Behind Bars
January 28, 2010
Last fall, a University of Delaware professor launched a pilot sexual health intervention for teen girls incarcerated at the Delaware Youth and Family Center (DYFC). In "Get Real," a small group of UD nursing students visits the center two nights a week for one month. The students talk with the teens about sexuality, life choices, contraception, dating, domestic violence, STDs, and parenting.
"Girls in the juvenile justice system have a very high rate of unintended pregnancy and STDs; some of the data tell you that about 80 to 90 percent of girls, by the time they are 14, are sexually active," said Judy Herrman, associate nursing professor. "A lot of them come from difficult backgrounds and difficult homes and therefore have not gotten some of the parental-based education that they need."
"We were expecting the girls to obviously be tough girls," said Nicki Bylsma, a junior who was a member of the first group of peer educators. "I think it was kind of refreshing for them to see girls come in who were close to them in age to talk to them. I think they felt pretty comfortable talking to us."
Sometimes the discussions are very candid and unfiltered on both sides, which is a strength of the program, said Kelly Westgate, also a UD junior.
"It's about having goals for the future and thinking about sexuality as a part of growing up and that there are significant responsibilities that go with it that could alter or hamper their goals and successes," Herrman said.
"People learn from this program because most of the girls in here weren't going to class on the regular, so in here we have to learn this stuff," said one young woman at the facility.
The pilot is funded with a grant from the Sigma Theta Tau nursing society.
News Journal (Wilmington)
01.24.2010; Ira Porter, Rachel Kipp