The Clayton County Board of Commissioners cleared the way Tuesday night for the county’s parks and recreation facilities to begin offering programs designed to prevent teenage females from having babies before they have high school diplomas.
The commission voted 3-0 to accept $13,000 in grant funding, on behalf of the Clayton County Parks and Recreation Department, to provide a Teen Outreach Program (TOP) Club at the Jim Huie Recreation Center in Jonesboro. Commission Vice Chairman Wole Ralph and Commissioner Sonna Singleton were not present at the meeting.
The grant money is part of a $4.2 million federal grant received by the Clayton County Board of Health earlier this year. Clayton County Parks and Recreation Director Detrick Stanford said his department hopes to roll out the teenage pregnancy prevention program later this year.
“This will give us an opportunity to expand our program offerings, as well as address some of the challenges our health department is having, primarily to address teen pregnancy issues within the county,” Stanford said. “One of the things that we’re always taking about is trying to find collaborative programing, and this certainly speaks to that.
“The Board of Health obviously provides some programs that relate to teen pregnancy, and the recreation center is an opportunity to house those actual opportunities.”
Stanford said he hopes to have the TOP Club at the Jim Huie Recreation Center open by “late fall,” with the ability to handle up to 60 teenagers, between the ages of 11 and 17. He added that the Board of Health will be working with the parks and recreation department to develop the program.
The commission’s written resolution to accept the funds shows that the club will be open one day a week, over a 12-week period. The resolution also shows that the grant money received by the parks and recreation department is meant to cover support expenses for the development and implementation of the program, supplies for the program, and staff to work with the teenagers.
“We’ll try to develop programing that addresses life-skills development,” Stanford said. “The life-skills development will probably entail field trips to locations throughout the metro area ... It can be a multitude of things.
“I think one of the things we talk about is educating our youth with alternatives, and one of the byproducts of the program is that, sometimes, our kids do not have alternative destination spots to go to. Sometimes, that leads to deviant behavior. So, by providing the additional alternate destination spots, whether it’s inside the county, or outside the county, that will speak to a preventative measure for teen pregnancy.”
Clayton County Board of Health Spokesman Joel Hall said the health agency is seeking out youth-oriented programs in the community to work with as partners on the pregnancy prevention program. “The whole idea behind the Teen Outreach Program is to find organizations that work with kids, that can host a TOP Club,” he said.
Clayton County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell said one of the things that he appreciates about the program is that it brings in various programs across the county. Bell is also the chairman of the county’s health board.
“It reaches into the [Clayton County] Board of Education, it reaches into [county’s] police department, and many other departments to help curtail this virulent contaminant that has invaded our community, called sex among our teenagers,” Bell said.