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Why Teen STAR Is Uniquely Successful in Motivating Abstinence Among Teens

UN Photo Marco Dormino

Susan E. Wills - published on 08/28/14

and went on to earn a BA and MD at the University of Louisville, graduating from its medical school in 1950. During her first year of residency at Mass General, she entered the Catholic Church and from then to October 1957 when she joined the Medical Mission Sisters, Dr. Klaus completed additional resdiencies at the Washington University School of Medicine, Peter Bent Brigham Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

Her service as a Medical Mission Sister began as Chief of OB-GYNS and Acting Medical Director at the Holy Family Hospital in Rawalpindi, Pakistan (1961 – 1966), followed by two years as OB department director in Dhaka, Pakistan (now Bangladesh).

Returning to the United States in 1969, she became an instructor, then assistant professor, supervisor of patients and residents and faculty practitioner at various St. Louis hospitals before becoming OB Department Director at St. Francis Hospital (Wichita, KS) and later, assistant professor, followed by associate professor of OB-GYN at George Washington University Medical School and Director, OB-GYN education at Holy Cross Hospital. She has published over 70 scholarly articles and scores of popular articles.

With the onset of the sexual revolution in the 1960s, Dr. Klaus was providing OB care to many young (13-16), pregnant teens in St. Louis. She tells a wonderful anecdote about how she learned that a program like Teen STAR could work. In 1973, she learned the Billings method of natural family planning (based on monitoring changes in cervical mucus during the fertility cycle). After giving birth, some of the girls continued to live with their  baby’s father. “I told them about the mucus in three sentences,” she explained.

“Two years later, one of ‘my’ girls came in. The baby was thriving and I asked her if she had been pregnant again. She said no. When I asked her how she was avoiding it, she looked surprised and said ‘You told me about the mucus.’ “

With a grant from the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation, Dr. Klaus developed a medical outline of how to teach the Billings method to teens, but her colleague—also a Billings instructor—tossed that aside and asked a classroom full of girls: “Y’all want to talk woman talk?” Using the Socratic method, the curriculum followed the sequence of the girls’ Q&A, beginning with what they can see–the mucus. Where does it come from and why? What are the implications? What hormones and moods do they elicit. Behavior. The nature of the human person. Men and their sexuality. Decision-making. Conception and embryonic/fetal development. Dating—its purpose, boundaries and how to establish them. Responsibility. Methods of NFP and artificial family planning (and their limitations). Girls would chart their cycles with the Billings method and after only three months, would “own” their fertility.   

A curriculum for boys was written at the request of parents, by Fr. Don Heet, OSFS, then the principal of a Catholic HS in northern Virginia (appropriately, Paul VI). The Teen STAR curriculum has also been adapted for Catholic schools, adding a religious component (mainly the theology of the body), and for younger teens in early adolescence, for young adults and for teenage mothers.

Teachers attend a five-day, 40-hour training workshop and must live the values of Humanae Vitae.

Parental permission is required and parents are invited to three meetings—before, during and after the program, to inform them of what will be covered, answer questions they might have and, in the later meetings, to learn how they perceive the program and what changes they’ve observed in their child.

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