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Teenage pregnancy is no longer a surprising news to the public. Teenage pregnancy referring to McGraw-Hill dictionary, understood to occur in an age 13 to 19 who has not completed her secondary school study, has few or no marketable skills, is financially dependent upon her parents or continues to live at home and is often mentally immature . It made a critical impact upon Hong Kong society and it became a significan issue in society and academic fields. The paper would illustrate the brief history and contemporary situation in Hong Kong. It will also analyzes the social work pratice area of teenage pregnancy in Hong Kong and the reason why it is a hard task to deal. This is one of the social work practice that I think it is difficult for me to work on. I would review literature and cases about how can social workers handle this problem for the preparation for the further study and future work.
In the past ten years of the 20th century, British governments became aware of teenage pregnancy issue as a significant public health and social problem . As a long-time sociologist on this isssue has observed, teenage pregnancy has become a ‘veritable industry’ . This view was shared by Hong Kong society. Official statistics have already clearly shown the teenage pregnancy problem years ago. According to the a public survey on school-based sex education in Hong Kong conducted by Department of Social Work at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, among those aged 26 or below who requested for abortion in the past three years, 3% of them were teenagers below 16. Moreover , 183 teenagers aged below 18 gave birth in 2006 . All these statistics have again aroused the public concern. For the social work field, this is a social issue worthy of discussion.
A local youth organization in Hong Kong conducted an exploratory and qualitative study focusing on teenagers who had become pregnant under the age of 18 (Hong Kong Federation of Youth Group 1995b). This is a in-depth study on teenage pregnancy in Hong Kong. The total of 25 girls were interviewed whom were referred by the Social Welfare Departmaent and other NGO. The study aimed at finding out their attitudes towards sex and contraception as well as the decision-making process regarding abortion. It explored that more interviewees chose to have an abortion in Hong Kong than to give birth to a baby that may trouble their futures. About half them made the decision to terminate the pregnancy within 2 weeks. However, four girls could not make up their minds or come to an agreement with their boyfriends . In these cases, the 24th week passed without a decision, making it too late for a legal abortion. Dealing with their issues of pregnancies, they worried more about the unpredictable changes in their future life than the social moral or others’ impression on them. All in all, it concluded that these girls had actively participated in the decision-making process, moreover, even make the decision by themselves. In some condition,heir parents were not in direct practical help and some parents even did not know the problem at all.
Difficulties in handling teenage pregnancy
I know the most difficult part for me to handle the teenage pregnancy case is ‘client self-determination’ phase. The client may be already suffered from her own confusion and the complicated emotion. As a professional social worker, must help the client to understand the pros and cons in her situation. Following the NASW Code of Ethics “social workers respect and promote the right of clients to self-determination and assist clients in their efforts to identify and clarify their goals” .
This decision making is an overwhelmed task for everyone. To choose an abortion, means a loss of a essential attachment relationship . It is a more psychological tramua than a biological hurt. Choosing to keep the baby, also lead to a loss of the ‘normal life’, facing the threat of social norms, financial problem, parental style, end up of education, etc. It seems that there is never a good choice.
In this helping process, it may conflict with my own interest and personal value and I afraid that would influence the client’s self-determination ability. I feel confident with my professional of ‘non-judgmental’, but talking about providing the options, it is hard for my preference of anti-abortion.
My mother is a Christian and her Christian value of opposing abortion has a great affect on me. From a Christian view, deliberate abortion, unless the mother’s life is in danger, is murder. I agree with the idea that this is kind of killing the most defenseless livin beings by taking away their most basic right to live, without their permission. So this is also the reason why in some countries, abortion is illegal. The baby is innocent. It is a tragedy that one have no right to determine to live or not. I regard the baby as human life though some people say it is only ‘an unwanted tissue’. Besides, teenage abortion patients are more likely to come up with physical risks. Because their bodies are not yet fully developed and can not produce pathogens, which are found in the cervical mucus of older women and protect them from infection . These teenagers are also twice as likely to experience cervical lacerations and higher risk for post-abortion infections such as pelvic inflammatory disease and endometritis . Scared by above information, I was clear that my personal interest is an obstacle to me of giving the unwed mother the choice of abortion.
On the other hand, continue the pregnancy, the major concern is raising up the baby. If the baby could not born in a complete family, or the parent were reluctant to accept his/her, it may cause a negative effect on the baby’s whole life. It is not his choice to come to this world, but he have to bear all these. I really believe in the family of origin’s lifelong affect on the baby. Social scientists have found that the children growing up in single parent families are disadvantaged in many aspects comparing to a two-biological-parent families . Studies shows that these children are more potentially to have deviant behaviors such as become low acadamic achievement, drug abuse, join a gang, ect. Many of these problems are related to the poor economic condition and parenting style. To be honest, none of us want to born in a single parent family. The child may rather his mother did not give birth to him, but he have no choice.
I worry that my dilemma of these cases would affect these sensitive teenage as they are really vulnerable under such condition. In the future work, I realize there is no way to escape from all this kind of issue. I have no choice but find out a applicable way to deal with it.
How do social worker handle teenage pregnancy
After doing literature review, I found the cardinal values of social work give me an effective support to handle these crisis. The Code of Ethics point out that “all human beings deserve access to the resources they need to deal with life’s problems and to develop their full potential” . As a social worker, we must believe that the client have the ability to make the preferable decision. Keep neutral and enhance their problem-solving and decision-making capacity in order to avoid conflict between our personal beliefs with the client’s value.
Tough decision to make
Applying empathy to this kind of cases, we should recognize their emotional reactions. If we can not stand in their positions, it is impossible to help them to help themselves. During this period, their emotion would be easily affected and would go through shocked, frightened, frustrated, angry, helpless, lost and alone, worried and shameful. Showing acceptance and being supportive is essential, it can lower the client’s anxiety and build up a trustful relationship.
After the client’s management of her emotion, weigh out the options, for example: her mental or physical health during prenancy, the financial conditionl and family support of the teenagers family, the family and status of the father, the future education or other plans for her . In the helping process, she is assisted to appraise her strengths and weaknesses as well as her extant resources and limitations, identify and assess alternatives, show empathy on her thoughts and feelings as well as take serious consideration of the welfare of the baby . Understand and inform the client about the pros and cons of all the choices, utilize the resources and then respect her choice no matter what it is..
Though the final decision is made by the client, this choice in fact would not be decided by her own. No doubt this would involved of her family support system or partner and friends’ social network. These teenager are tend to make decision under the pressure given by their parens or boyfriends.
Usually, social worker whom work on the teenage pregnancy case will provide the teen three options and help this client to assess her situation.
Keep the baby. If the client decide to keep the baby, the social worker should make it clear to the realistic demands of the costs whether now or the future. Make sure she get the fully perspective of the future challenges. Many kinds of responsibilities she has to take, such as physical and psychological changes, financial risks or maternal management. And the most important, is she well prepare for the new role of a parent.
Give the baby up for adoption. The most crucial task before the baby’s birth, is consider to make the maximum benefits for the baby. Though it may broken the mother’s heart. After concerns of the baby’s better future, some pregnant girls will continue their pregnancies and painfully give up the baby for adoption. If the client face her situation of not ready for a parenthood, no matter what kind of factors, we should respect her choice. She is bravely admitting she is not ready to becom a mother but want her baby to achieve a better life.
To choose adoption can arouse the sense of loss and guilty. This feeling will start with the pregnancy itself because the expectant parents realize the fact of accept the loss of their own immediate life plans . Dealing with sadness and guilt is not easy, some of them may really suffer from the fact that permanently separated from their child or even feel grief and shame last a lifetime. So analyze all these cost and possibilities and inform her as much details as possible, it help her feel in control and confirm of making this decision.
End the pregnancy. Some time abortion is a hard but reasonable choice. Abortion is a very sensitive issue for many people and a very difficult decision to make for many women. But to some extent, finacial or psychological limitation, they have no choice but to give up their babies for adortion for further consideration. Having an abortion under 24 weeks is considered legal in Hong Kong. Also, social worker should make sure that the client is informed the possible consequences, by consulting the doctor, the family and the partner to evaluate the determination.
How if I face this issue
As I realize the difficulties of myself in dealing with teenage pregnancy, the best way to solve this dilemma is follow the ethical principles. All social worker’s work is helping people to help themselves. What I have to do is to help her find out the best way to solve her problem.
First is to keep confidential. Only in this way, the client assured that their information will not known by others so that will talk freely and provide more imformation. The principle also point our the confidentiality is not absolute when the client present a danger to self or others . I may discuss this concerns with my client and let her to decide whether to continue the services under such situation. A teen may face a dilemma, whether to tell others or not. When we feel the involvement of a parent or friends could be helpful, but she may not want any outside involvement . It is reasonable that under the pressure of social norms, this young girl will like to keep a secret. Senior social work suggest that the best way is explore her reluctance of telling others, after that, is up to her decision.
And then, consent is an important ethical issue as well. We suggest voluntary involvement with the case to the client. For instance, Canada’s common law states that people can consent if they are capable of understanding their problem, the proposed treatment, and the likely consequences of having or refusing treatment . In another word, it is her choice to consent or refuse.
Facing any kind of deviant behaviour, a social worker must be non-judgmental. All of us were have been taught that we should not make judgments in class. As a human being, it is hard of putting none emotion on others. Geldard holds the view, that being non-judgmental and treating client with unconditional positive regard are goals which we should try our best to achieve. Though this is difficult, we need to explore in supervision any personal issues which may be interfering with their ability to be more accepting . I should strive to do this in order to build up a trustful relationship with the client.
Teenage pregnancy is a multifaceted issue that involve so many factors. As a social worker, understanding these teenagers as they try hard on making their decisions regarding sexuality and parenthood involves , keep in touch with their perceptions of themselves and their assessments of the opportunities that waiting them . After writing this paper, I recognize I had considered too much about humanitarianism and fostering a healthy baby, but neglect the pregnant teenager—-my client. A social worker’s most concern is how to help the client to make maximum benefit in her situation but not to judge if they are right or wrong. I have to learn and practice more on believing in the client’s ability to solve the problem and respect her choice. I will not pass judgment on the client who are confronting difficult decisions, they are doing the best they can.
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