“Have a baby too young and it’ll control your life” the ad reads. You may have seen these recent ads at bus shelters – they’re designed to make teens think twice before becoming parents. The ad campaign (see image below) is the latest public awareness effort for Milwaukee’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative, a collaborative effort led by United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County.
The initiative began back in 2006, when Milwaukee had one of the highest rates of births of teens 15-17 year olds in the nation. Teen pregnancy is closely linked to other issues that Milwaukee faces: poor educational outcomes, crime and the stubborn cycle of intergenerational poverty, as well as being a financial drain on city services.
It was determined that a collaborative community-wide initiative was needed to improve social conditions and create lasting social change in our community.
A diverse group of community stakeholders was brought together for the collaborative, which included local businesses, media outlets, health care providers, Milwaukee Public Schools, and community- and faith-based organizations. A recent case study of the initiative by The BridgeSpan Group concluded that United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County has the, “trust of the community, the power (and political neutrality) to convene at the highest levels, and the independence to make a long-term commitment to a politicized issue.” United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County was uniquely positioned to lead this initiative.
In conjunction with this initiative, several local funders created a Collaborative Fund to make grants in support teen pregnancy prevention programs. DFW grantmaking members contributing to the collaborative fund include The Brico Fund, The Faye McBeath Foundation, Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Johnson Controls, Inc. Foundation; Rockwell Automation Foundation, The Davis Family Fund and the Daniel M. Soref Charitable Trust.
Milwaukee’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative had one goal: To reduce teen births among 15-17 year old by 46 percent by 2015.
The progress so far? “Extraordinary” says Nicole Angresano, Vice President of Community Impact at United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County. “The key metric that we look at each October is teen birth rate.” And on October 22, 2013, United Way and Mayor Tom Barrett announced that Milwaukee met – and surpassed – its goal three years early!
City of Milwaukee Health Department data shows that in 2013, there were 22.9 births per 1,000 females ages 15 to 17, a 56 percent decrease from the 52.0 births per 1,000 females recorded in 2006. The City of Milwaukee Health Department credits United Way and the communitywide Teen Pregnancy Prevention Oversight Committee’s strategic, focused approach for the unprecedented success.
Due to its success, the Milwaukee Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative has become a national model for successful community collaboration and has received several national honors.
Even with the goal met, the work still continues to keep community awareness of and comprehension of the problem of teen pregnancy. In 2014, just one year after meeting the initial goal, a new bold goal was set to further cut the 2013 teen birth rates by 50 percent by 2023. “It is incredibly rewarding to see the overall number continue to decline,” says Angresano. “But the data also illustrates that we cannot become complacent. We have young people entering that critical age group each year and we need to work as hard as ever to ensure ongoing success.”
The new Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative ad campaign hopes to do just that by encouraging teens to visit www.babycanwait.com for information and resources.
Don’t forget, May is National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month. The Women’s Leadership Council of United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County has proudly championed the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative since its inception, and each May, the Women’s Leadership Council holds an annual luncheon event to highlight the progress Milwaukee has made. Visit their website at www.unitedwaygmwc.org for more information.
Donors Forum of Wisconsin’s grantmaking members are making a difference in our community and we are proud to highlight their work.
Contributed by Melinda VerDuin, communications and marketing manager, Donors Forum of Wisconsin