Amy Aparicio Clark visited Brawley, California, to get feedback on the El sexo puede esperar (Saving Sex for Later) program, which promotes positive parenting practices among families with young adolescents. With support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, EDC translated and adapted the program for Latino parents.
“Brawley is in a desert and completely flat. To get there, I drove two hours east of San Diego on Interstate 8. At points along the highway, you pass the beautiful Algodones sand dunes on one side, while seeing the metal border fence on the other side. Whenever the highway curves closer to Mexico, the atmosphere changes, and you see checkpoints and armed border guards.
Like other southern border communities, Brawley is a blend of U.S. and Mexican culture. The economy is based on agriculture and the cattle/feed industry. There are many migrant workers in the region, with families moving around California’s Imperial Valley and up the West Coast following the crops. There’s also a fluidity back and forth across the border, as families travel to visit relatives in Mexico, sometimes several times a year.
Migrant and other Latino families in Brawley want to give their children the support they need to do well in school and have good jobs. However, the Imperial Valley also has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the state, and teen births increase the likelihood that mothers and children will live in poverty. That’s why the Saving Sex for Later program and our work with community partners are especially significant in this region.
The Spanish-language version of Saving Sex for Later is in its final year of pilot-testing in Brawley as well as in Hartford, Connecticut. We chose to pilot the program in Brawley because the population is 75 percent Hispanic, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation had a long-term investment in pregnancy prevention in the region. Between the two cities, we have distributed more than 2,000 sets of audio CDs to Latino families.
At the outset of the project, we formed a Community Advisory Board, which includes parents, staff from social service agencies and churches, as well as Latino college students. They’re helping to give Latino families access to our program, and they give us feedback about how to improve the program. During this visit, we wanted to talk with our advisors about how to encourage more local agencies to adopt the program.
Using audio CDs to deliver the program has been an effective approach, both in terms of cost and time. Families don’t need a computer to play the CDs—they can listen to them on a boom box or other CD player, at a time of their choosing. We’ve learned how valuable it is to have trained people in the community who can help us deliver the materials and the message. Our community partners worked hard to get the CDs to families through schools, churches, and health care centers, and in other places we might not think of.
For example, a team of outreach workers went to the Imperial Valley Housing Authority monthly food distribution and talked to families as they waited in line for their food baskets. They asked if they had children between the ages of 10 and 13, and if they did, they got a complete set of CDs. They also handed out CDs at soccer games, aerobics classes, Herbalife meetings, and Boys & Girls Clubs. There’s nothing like that sort of grassroots infiltration to get to where Latino families live and work and play.
Shortly after my family moved to the United States from Peru, I started sixth grade. It’s not a mystery to me how it feels to transition into a new culture during adolescence. Having to learn new norms, a new language, a new school system can be overwhelming for both parents and children—even without the transition to raising (or becoming) a teen! It’s very meaningful to me that through this project we are providing families with tools to navigate those changes together.
The response from families in Brawley has been very positive. Sex can be a taboo topic in the Hispanic community. The CDs depict ways that families can be proactive in their parenting before their children become sexually active. It gives us energy to see Latino parents become empowered and bring their own knowledge and values to the conversation. Even grandparents—who play a big role in raising Latino children—are using the CDs to help them talk with their grandchildren about sex.”
Originally published on October 18, 2010