WISH Poster Contest

WISH is calling on Worcester youth ages 13-21 to enter our Poster Contest before April 12, 2018! Three prizes of $100, $50 and $50 are available.

The contest theme is TALK TO US! Design a poster telling adults and parents why they should talk with youth about healthy relationships and sexuality

Get more information and find out how to submit your artwork here: WISH Poster Contest.


June 2017 is “Worcester: Impact on Sexual Health Awareness Month” in Worcester!

All of us at the WISH Task Force extend our thanks to Mayor Joe Petty and the Worcester City Counselors for proclaiming June as WISH Awareness Month at the City Council meeting on Tuesday, June 6. We were joined at the event by WISH Task Force members and youth from the Get Real Teen Council.

Please join us in raising awareness of the importance of supporting Worcester youth to develop healthy relationships and sexual health!

Proclamation text:
“WHEREAS, improving community and clinical linkages to improve sexual health outcomes is a priority in the Greater Worcester Community Health Improvement Plan; and
WHEREAS, Worcester cares about reducing teen birth and STI rates among our youth; and
WHEREAS, Worcester youth want and need education and health services to help them learn how to have positive relationships and stay healthy; and
WHEREAS, Worcester youth want adults they can trust in their lives to talk with honestly and openly and parents, caregivers and other trusted adults are the most important sources of role modeling for youth; and
WHEREAS, evidence-based sexuality education has been shown to have a positive impact on preventing teen pregnancies and STIs and promoting healthy behaviors; and
WHEREAS, W.I.S.H. is a Worcester community task force with the goal to improve economic, educational and social outcomes for our youth by making a positive impact on their relationships and health; and
WHEREAS, Worcester adults can find information about how to support youth’s healthy development and promote healthy relationships at www.wishtaskforce.org;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Joseph M. Petty, Mayor of the City of Worcester, Massachusetts, DO HEREBY PROCLAIM June 2017 as
in Worcester, and commend this observance to our citizens.”

How to Talk to Your Children About Consent and Sexual Assault

By Lisa Esposito, usnews.com

It’s a delicate but crucial job for parents: teaching kids about healthy sexuality and boundaries, making them aware of the potential for sexual abuse, navigating issues of consent and helping them plan what to do if they witness something wrong. From kids starting preschool to teens heading to college, an ongoing, open conversation is more effective than a sudden, scary lecture. Below, experts offer parents age-based, proactive approaches for talking to kids about sensitive issues.

Talk to younger kids in a simple, straightforward way. Before getting into safety rules about good touch versus bad touch, kids need to know basic facts. That starts with using anatomically correct language – the right words – when talking to kids about their body parts, says Jenny Coleman, director of Stop It Now!, a national organization committed to the prevention of child sexual abuse.

Explain in a way kids can understand – for instance, that parts of their bodies covered by a swimsuit are their private areas. Once kids are familiar with the basics, then rules around sexual touch and safety like “nobody can touch you, and you can’t touch someone else” can become part of an ongoing family conversation about respect, privacy and boundaries, Coleman says. “We want to build that into our overall healthy sexuality education that parents and caregivers provide to their children,” she says.

A point that Coleman emphasizes: “We absolutely want to give children tools, communication and information – and it’s still going to be adults’ responsibility to keep kids safe.”

One important message about boundaries is that kids own control over their bodies, Coleman says: “You get to say no if somebody wants to give you a hug and you don’t feel like a hug. Even if it’s Grandma, I’m going to back you up and say, ‘No.'” Parents can explain to adults in their sphere: “This is how we’re raising our children because we’re concerned about their safety.” It’s about setting a precedent that kids can say “No,” whenever they want – in case another adult tries to do something that isn’t safe.

Depending on how you were raised, starting these discussions can be discomforting. “We want to be culturally sensitive,” Coleman says. “We can’t force [parents] to say, ‘Hey, great; I’m going to start talking about vaginas and penises to my 5-year-old.'” Parents can start by learning more on their own, she says, to build a knowledge base they didn’t get as kids. And you don’t have to be an instant authority, Coleman says: “It’s OK to say to a child, ‘To be honest, I’m kind of shy about talking about healthy sexuality.'”

Your Voice Matters

Tweens and teens may roll their eyes and say they’re bored, but a parent’s voice still resonates. However, parents may find themselves freezing as kids reach their middle-school years, says Dr. Cora Breuner, head of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Adolescence.

“It’s like, ‘If I talk to them about consent and sexual activity, they’re going to go have sex,'” Breuner says. But parents needn’t fear putting ideas in kids’ heads, she says. If anything, the more parents talk to kids and give them guidance, the less likely they are to agree to sexual activity, she says.

As a clinician and professor of pediatrics and adolescent medicine at Seattle Children’s Hospital and the University of Washington, Breuner frequently speaks with reluctant families who really don’t want to talk about sex.

“You can actually have this conversation about the parents’ values,” she says. As an opener, she might recommend: “I know that in our family, within our faith, with our culture, we are not at all promoting sexual activity. However, we still need to have a conversation about what people might do or how you might find yourself in a position where I’m not here as your parent to help guide you through this.”

A preemptive discussion works better than a reactive one. “It should not be in the heat of the moment when they’re upset, but an open conversation families have with their children when it’s calm and quiet,” Breuner says.

Discussing specific scenarios help kids relate and practice how to respond if they’re ever faced with similar situations in real life. “You need to learn some proper script to say when you don’t want someone to do this. Obviously it goes from, ‘No means no’ and ‘I don’t want you to touch me’ all the way to ‘I’m calling 911.'”

Permission to change your mind is another important point, Breuner says. It’s a common misconception that starting any type of intimate behavior, like kissing, is a sign of consent and you can no longer back out or say no.

Some adolescents feel more comfortable speaking frankly with their health professionals. “The parent should be OK leaving the room and trusting that the pediatrician or whoever the health care provider is, whether it’s a nurse practitioner or physician or whoever, will have a conversation about safety,” Breuner says.

You don’t want your son or daughter to be a victim or an instigator. If you’re concerned about your child acting out sexually or abusing another child, you can reach out to experts at Stop It Now! Another resource is the National Center on the Sexual Behavior of Youth website, part of a program funded by the U.S. Department of Justice. It offers information about parental responses, prevention and legal concerns around what it terms “problematic sexual behaviors in youth.”

True Consent and Responsible Bystanders

Long before kids go off to college, Breuner says, parents should talk with them about safety, sexual-assault prevention and the meaning of consent. It must be clear that people who are drunk or intoxicated cannot give consent to sex.

Parents could use studies or news items to serve as starting points for larger conversations about campus safety, Breuner suggests. It’s a good way to segue to the importance of traveling in twos, not having sex with someone who’s inebriated and having safety scripts ready, she says, “because statistics show you might get into that situation whether you realize it or not.”

Kids also need to consider how they’ll react if they see someone else being victimized. “What I’ve taught my kids and what I teach my patients is: ‘Which one are you going to be if you witness something: Are you going to be a bystander? Are you going to intervene?’ Breuner says. Having that conversation ahead of time, she says, allows kids to respond: “I’m not going to be a bystander; I’m not going to be a participant. I’m not going to walk away. I’m going to help – this is what I’m going to do.”

Teen birth rate hits historic low, but sex ed still a struggle

By Michelle Andrews, Kaiser Health News, posted on CNN.com

Teenage girls are catching up to teenage boys in one way that does no one any good: lack of sex education, according to a recent report.

The proportion of teenage girls between the ages of 15 and 19 who were taught about birth control methods declined from 70 to 60 percent over two time periods, from 2006-2010 and 2011-2013, the analysis of federal data found. Meanwhile, the percentage of teenage boys in the same age group who were taught about birth control also declined, from 61 to 55 percent.

“Historically there’s been a disparity between men and women in the receipt of sex education,” said Isaac Maddow-Zimet, a coauthor of the study and a research associate at the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research and advocacy group. “It’s now narrowing, but in the worst way.”

The study, which was published online in the Journal of Adolescent Health in March, analyzed responses during the two time periods from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Survey for Family Growth, a continuous national household survey of women and men between the ages of 15 and 44.

In addition to questions about birth control methods, the study asked teens whether they had received formal instruction at their schools, churches, community centers or elsewhere about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), how to say no to sex or how to prevent HIV/AIDS.

Overall, 43 percent of teenage girls and 57 percent of teenage boys said in the most recent time frame that they hadn’t received any information about birth control before they had sex for the first time.
The proportion of young women who said they had been taught about how to say no to sex declined from 89 to 82 percent over the two study periods. For young men, the proportion remained essentially unchanged, inching up to 84 from 82 percent.

There were slight declines in the proportions of young women and men who said they had been taught about STDs and HIV/AIDS, but the responses were above 85 percent during both study periods for both sexes.

Teens talked with their parents to varying degrees about birth control and STDs. However, 22 percent of young women and 30 percent of young men said they didn’t talk with their parents about any of the topics.

The study also notes that the decline in formal education about birth control occurred even though the federal government spending has increased for teen pregnancy prevention programs.
Despite the lack of formal teaching, teenage pregnancy rates have declined for more than two decades and are now at historic lows. Racial disparities remain, however, and few teens use highly effective long-acting contraceptives such as intrauterine devices or hormonal implants.

“Even though the teen pregnancy rate is declining, it might decline faster if teens were getting sex education,” Maddow-Zimet said.

U.S. teens getting less formal sex education since 2006

By Kathryn Doyle, Reuters.com

(Reuters Health) – Formal instruction about birth control and other aspects of sexual health in the U.S. is on the decline, according to an analysis of survey data from 2006 to 2013.

“The declines in formal sex education we observed since 2006 are distressing, but unfortunately are part of a longer term retreat from sex education, especially instruction about birth control methods,” said lead study author Laura Duberstein Lindberg of The Guttmacher Institute in New York.

“For example, in 1995 more than four out of five teens were taught about birth control—in the most recent data this is only about half,” she said.

The researchers used interviews taken from nationwide household surveys administered continuously between 2006 and 2010 and between 2011 and 2013, focusing on respondents aged 15 to 19 years. The analysis included responses from about 2,000 teen boys and 1,000 teen girls in each wave of surveys.

The surveys included questions about whether the youth had ever received formal sex education at school, church, a community center or elsewhere before age 18. Examples of sex education topics used in the surveys included how to say no to sex, methods of birth control, sexually transmitted diseases and how to prevent HIV and AIDS. The second wave of surveys also asked about learning where to get birth control and how to use a condom.

In addition, the teens reported whether they had ever discussed these topics informally with a parent or guardian.

In the 2006 to 2010 surveys, 70 percent of girls and 61 percent of boys said they had received formal instruction about birth control, which dropped to 60 percent and 55 percent, respectively, in the 2011 to 2013 surveys.

Girls also reported less formal education on STDs, HIV and AIDS prevention, and saying no to sex over time. Both girls and boys reported more formal education in saying no to sex without instruction about birth control in the second survey wave, the researchers report in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Most of the decline in reported formal sex education happened in rural areas, the study team notes.

Informal sex ed talks with parents did not appear to change over time.

About one in five girls and more than a third of boys said they had received no instruction on birth control from formal sources or from a parent.

“The ongoing changes in the public education system likely explain some part of it,” said Brian Goesling of Mathematica Policy Research in Princeton, New Jersey, who was not part of the study. “Schools are placing more emphasis on academic standards and student achievement. They may have less time for formal sex education.”

What happens in a particular school depends mostly on state and local educational policy, he told Reuters Health by email.

“Sex education has long been contentious and political in the U.S.,” Lindberg told Reuters Health by email. “Abstinence-only until marriage programs took over sex education in the late 1990s, and instruction about birth control has declined ever since.”

At the same time, concern about HIV declined, reducing prioritization of sex education, she said.

“Too many teens are falling through the gaps, without instruction from parents or formal settings,” she said. “Too few teens receive sex education before they first have sex.”

While teen pregnancy has also been on the decline, that drop could have been greater if comprehensive sex education were more widespread, Lindberg said.

“Parents need to talk with their children about sex, about sexuality and about normal healthy development,” not as a single conversation, but as part of the ongoing job of being a parent, she said. “Parents can also be important advocates for other sources of sex education, working with their child’s school and pediatrician to ensure that their child has access to the education that they need.”

SOURCE: bit.ly/1T6IGUS Journal of Adolescent Health, online March 29, 2016.

National Sexuality Education Standards out today!

Press Release from advocatesforyouth.org

Advocates for Youth is proud to be a part of the team which developed the National Sexuality Education Standards.

Today, four leading health organizations released the first-ever national standards for sexuality education in schools. Published in the Journal of School Health, the ground-breaking National Sexuality Education Standards: Core Content and Skills, K-12 provide clear, consistent, and straightforward guidance on the essential minimum, core content for sexuality education that is developmentally and age-appropriate for students in grades Kindergarten through grade 12.

The standards are the result of a cooperative effort by the American Association for Health Education, the American School Health Association, the National Education Association Health Information Network, and the Society of State Leaders of Health and Physical Education, in coordination with the Future of Sex Education (FoSE) Initiative. Nearly 40 stakeholders including content experts, medical and public health professionals, teachers, sexuality educators, and young people developed the standards in a two-year process.

“These National Sexuality Education Standards provide teachers, schools, school districts, and state education agencies with a new national standard—the minimum they need to teach to set students on a path to sexual health and responsible adulthood,” said Jerry Newberry, Executive Director of the National Education Association Health Information Network (NEA HIN). “They set forth minimum, essential sexuality education core content and skills responsive to the needs of students and in service to their overall academic achievement.”

For years, research has highlighted the need to provide effective, comprehensive sexuality education to young people. The United States has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the industrialized world and teens bear a disproportionate impact of the sexually transmitted disease (STD) and HIV epidemics facing our nation. One in four sexually active teens has a STD and two young people every hour become HIV positive. Furthermore, there is also a pressing need to address harassment, bullying and relationship violence in our schools, which have a significant impact on a student’s emotional and physical well being as well as their academic success. The National Sexuality Education Standards set the groundwork for the minimum of what sexuality education should look like in America’s public schools.

“These standards are presented in a user-friendly way, making it possible for a health education teacher or parent, say, of a seventh-grader, to easily find out what is the next step in the learning process for a thirteen-year-old in regards to sexual health,” said Stephen Conley, Executive Director of the American School Health Association.

The standards focus on seven topics as the minimum, essential content and skills for K–12 education: Anatomy and Physiology, Puberty and Adolescent Development, Identity, Pregnancy and Reproduction, Sexually Transmitted Diseases and HIV, Healthy Relationships, and Personal Safety. Topics are presented using performance indicators—what students should know and be able to do by the end of grades 2, 5, 8, and 12—and are based on the National Health Education Standards.

“The National Sexuality Education Standards translate an emerging body of research related to school-based sexuality education so that it can be put into practice in the classroom,” said Brian Griffith, President Elect of the Society of State Leaders of Health and Physical Education. “These standards, developed by education and health professionals, present sexual development as a normal, natural, healthy part of human development that should be a part of every health education curriculum.”

The National Sexuality Education Standards were developed to address the inconsistent implementation of sexuality education nationwide and the limited time allocated to teaching the topic. General health education is given very little time in the school curriculum. Even less time is dedicated to sexuality education. According to the School Health Policies and Practices Study, a national survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Adolescent School Health, a median total of 17.2 hours is devoted to instruction in HIV, pregnancy and STD prevention: 3.1 hours in elementary, 6 hours in middle and 8.1 hours in high school. Studies have repeatedly found that health programs in school can help young people succeed academically and programs that included health education have a positive effect on overall academic outcomes, including reading and math scores.

To view the complete National Sexuality Education Standards, click here. To schedule an interview, please contact Danene Sorace, Consultant to the FoSE Initiative, at 717.585.0503.