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Business of Giving: Community Schools Mean Real Innovation

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Throw money at the solution, not the problem.

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If President Obama's Office of Social Innovation gets the $50 million he's requested to help fund non-profit agencies, I've got a suggestion for how to best spend that money: Tackle the hardest problems first.

What are the hardest problems? As someone who's spent the last 40 years working with disadvantaged children, 2 top my list: teen pregnancy and public education.

In this article, I'll discuss teen pregnancy. Despite decades of intervention, the US still has the highest pregnancy rate in the developing world. Each year, 4 out of 20 teens will get pregnant. In 2006, nearly half a million babies were born to girls between the ages of 15-19 in the US. These numbers frustrate me immensely because I see evidence everyday that with the right interventions, our country can reverse this trend.

At my organization, The Children's Aid Society, we have taken a holistic approach to teen-pregnancy prevention. The Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program is based on what we know for sure: Hope is a powerful contraceptive. We don't just teach sex ed, we give teens mentors and tutors who can help them succeed in school, get into college, and enter the workforce. We give them access to health, dental, and mental care. We help teens discover their own inner talents.

"One of the things I've learned," says Dr. Michael Carrera, who developed the program, "is that we don't prevent teen pregnancy, teens do. We don't prevent STDs, they do. What we do is create a climate that allows good things to happen. And when they believe good things can happen, on their own they reduce the risk."

Skeptical? The numbers show that this approach works. Low-income teens who participate in our program have a 40-50% lower pregnancy rate than average. The program has been named a "Top Tier Program" by the Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy. That means research proves what we see every day: This approach works.
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