YOU HAVE PROBABLY seen the billboards. An ugly rooster staring at nothing in particular. A caption reading: "What do you call a guy who makes a baby and flies the coop?" It is an important message, in part presented by United Way, which is conducting its annual fund drive.
Campaign for Our Children began its ads aimed at reducing teen pregnancy in 1988, when Baltimore was ranked first in the nation among big cities for births to girls age 18 and under. The city no longer holds that distinction, thanks to efforts such as Campaign for Our Children. CFOC couldn't do its work without funding from several sources, including Associated Black Charities, a United Way agency.
The campaign was born out of the realization by pro-life and pro-choice advocates in the legislature that they could work together to reduce the teen-age birth rate. CFOC also has a "pick on someone your own age" ad aimed at older men who get teen-agers pregnant.
But the campaign isn't just a media blitz of TV commercials, radio spots and billboards stressing sexual abstinence among young people. It also includes a lesson plan that is taught in schools throughout Maryland.
Interviews with students indicate the program, which promotes abstinence as both birth control and the best way to avoid HIV infection, has helped many children talk with their parents about family life issues. The program urges parents to talk with their children about sex before they find out they are grandparents.
United Way dollars were also silently at work through Associated Black Charities in 1993 when ABC helped fund the Citywide Liquor Coalition for Better Laws and Regulation. The coalition successfully fought to get the legislature and the Baltimore City Council to pass laws prohibiting liquor and cigarette billboard ads from inner-city neighborhoods.
Other agencies that have received United Way help through Associated Black Charities include Health Care for the Homeless, the Baltimore Fuel Fund and Project Raise. ABC also commissioned the study leading to the Baltimore public school system's new "enterprise schools" program and it is now involved in a project to increase communities' capacity to improve themselves. That's a United Way agency at work. It makes a difference.