The Taking Charge curriculum is a solution-focused, cognitive-behavioral brief group intervention designed to help pregnant and parenting female students stay in school. School achievement and subsequent graduation are believed to be the first steps for adolescent mothers toward establishing lives of self-sufficiency. The primary goals of Taking Charge are school achievement through increased attendance, improved grades, and positive life outcomes. The program curriculum was designed within a developmental and strengths-based framework, so school professionals can intervene with young mothers and enhance their social problem-solving skills and active coping strategies that will enable them to manage the challenges they encounter across four critical life domains: education, personal relationships, parenting, and employment/career.
The school-based curriculum was developed because of the extraordinarily high dropout rate of pregnant and parenting Mexican American female students in high school.
The curriculum includes a group meeting once a week for 8 weeks, with each session lasting 60 to 90 minutes. The group session format has three segments. The first segment involves a group discussion led by the group leader on various topics, including participants’ personal experiences with tasks completed between sessions. During the second segment, participants work through the five-step problem-solving process in which they identify their goals and carry out specific tasks toward each goal before the next group meeting. The third segment includes any questions or concerns participants may have for the group leader, and a summarization of the session.
Incentives are built into the curriculum to motivate participants to fully engage in the group activities and individual tasks. The primary incentive is a point system. Compliments and positive feedback from group leaders and members are also used. Points can be earned each week by attending school, attending group sessions, completing tasks, and finishing school homework. Points are accrued throughout the 8 weeks of group sessions toward an award in the end. Awards vary according to available resources but may include gift certificates, small gifts such as movie passes, and participation in an off-campus field trip.
The Taking Charge curriculum is based on seven major theoretical components:
- Goal setting across four critical life domains
- Developmental theory framework
- Strengths-based, solution-focused brief therapy framework (Franklin, et al. 2012; Franklin, Kim, and Tripodi 2009; Kim and Franklin 2009)
- Theory of stress and coping (Lazarus and Folkman 1984)
- Bandura’s social learning theory (Bandura 1999)
- Social problem-solving process (D’Zurilla and Nezu 1982)
- Task-centered group model (Reid 1986)
The theoretical foundation provides the basis for many of the intervention activities, such as solution building, practicing and mastering skills, modeling, and incentive strategies.
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Harris and Franklin (2003) found the Taking Charge program had a moderate effect in increasing school attendance for program participants. The mean attendance rate for the treatment group increased from 0.83 before participating in the program to 0.86 six weeks after participating in the program, while the mean attendance rate for the control group decreased from 0.84 to 0.75 during that time. The difference in the attendance rate between the treatment group and control group at the 6-week follow-up was statistically significant.
The intervention also had a moderate effect on the grade averages. The grade average for the treatment group increased from 77.84 to 79.59 (a low-B grade average), while the grade average for the control group decreased from 77.45 to 71.63 (a low-D grade average). The difference in grade averages between the treatment group and control group at posttest was statistically significant.
A significant difference was found between the treatment and control groups on measures of problem-focused coping behavior at the 6-week follow-up period. The average score on the coping subscales for the treatment group increased from 58.52 to 64.07, while the average score for the control group decreased from 58.35 to 56.62. The difference in coping behavior between the groups at the 6-week follow-up was statistically significant.
A significant difference was also found between the treatment and control groups on measures of rational social problem-solving skills at the 6-week follow-up period. The average score on the problem-solving subscale for the treatment group increased from 12.88 to 14.93, while the average score for the control group decreased slightly from 12.98 to 12.88. The difference in problem-solving skills between the groups at the 6-week follow-up was statistically significant.
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