The Early Years
Back in the early 1980s, teen pregnancy rates in North Carolina were high - so high, in fact, that nearly half of all girls experienced a pregnancy before age 20. One labor and delivery nurse in Charlotte noticed this trend. Many of her patients were young. After one particularly hard delivery - delivering the baby of a 10 year old girl who didn't understand how she had gotten pregnant - that nurse, Barbara Huberman, decided to try something different.
Barbara believed that young people needed to understand how their bodies worked and wanted to empower them. She worked with local leaders to form a work group to find solutions for the area’s rapidly rising teen pregnancy rates – a problem that reflected national trends. By 1985, that little work group was thriving and established itself as its own nonprofit. That's us. The new nonprofit would focus on helping local groups across the state build capacity to address teen pregnancy.
In 1986 – just one year after our official founding – the North Carolina General Assembly turned to our fledgling group to launch a state-funded partnership to support pregnancy prevention projects across the state. Six years later, North Carolina reversed its teen pregnancy rate trend and started the decline that continues to this day.
Adolescence - Changes and Challenges
Throughout the 1990s, we worked to build awareness of teen pregnancy with events like Let’s Talk Month and Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month. Both are now national events. These awareness efforts helped North Carolina take a critical first step toward preventing teen pregnancies: helping young people want to avoid pregnancy. Now 9 out of 10 teens want to avoid getting pregnant or causing a pregnancy.
We suffered a major setback in the mid-1990s when the NC General Assembly passed a new abstinence-only-until-marriage law. The law led most school districts to violate parents’ beliefs and public health best practices by denying students age-appropriate and medically accurate information. The law also led schools to use programs associated with higher pregnancy and STD rates.
During the 1990s we also made a positive move: We moved from Charlotte to the Triangle area so we could more easily provide education and advocacy services to the entire state.
In the early 2000s, we received a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help local communities focus on providing proven programs. With schools unable to provide basic factual information, many of the community programs funded through the CDC grant became community cornerstones for promoting health, safety, and responsibility. This grant solidified the core of our current day-to-day work: Providing training and technical assistance on proven strategies to anyone who wants to make a difference.
The Early 2000s
The late 2000s saw landmark change. We latched on to the new but growing mobile health field by launching the BrdsNBz Text Message Warm Line. The service garnered national attention when it was featured in the New York Times Sunday Styles section.
In 2009, the NC General Assembly passed the Healthy Youth Act. For the first time, public schools must provide students with health information that is medically accurate and age-appropriate. Furthermore, the law gives local school boards broad authority to use proven curricula and provide a full range of parent-and-science-supported information.
If the start of the 2010s is any indication, we have no plans to slow down. In 2010, we were selected by the CDC to serve as one of eight organizations in the United States to demonstrate the impact of a broad, community-wide initiative to lower teen pregnancy rates. The initiative is called Gaston Youth Connected, and it is already providing important lessons for the rest of the state. In 2011, we launched the WISE initiative to increase schools’ capacity to provide effective sex education that meets local needs.
In January 2012, we announced a new state goal to reduce teen pregnancy 30% by 2020. As of 2013, teen pregnancy rates had dropped 29.97% - almost to our goal more than seven years ahead of schedule.
A Thriving Organization - And A Bigger Scope
In 2015, we expanded our mission and changed our name to SHIFT NC (Sexual Health Initiatives For Teens) - expanding our scope of work to include teen pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and STIs, sexuality, development, relationships, and access to care.