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Federal Abstinence Official Heralds 'New Day' at National Abstinence Education Conference

Federal Abstinence Official Heralds 'New Day' at National Abstinence Education Conference
Addressing some 500 participants from 48 states, Scott T. Riggins, a Health and Human Services official, announced "a new day" in abstinence education as programs around the nation achieve higher levels of effectiveness and professionalism.

Mr. Riggins, who is Acting Director of the Abstinence Education Division for the Family and Youth Services Bureau of HHS, spoke at the National Abstinence Grantees Conference in Bethesda, Maryland, held in late January. Attending the conference were representatives from approximately 240 organizations that receive federal funds to teach or promote abstinence.

Stressing that the needs and health of young people must be the focus of all abstinence programs, Mr. Riggins told the abstinence educators that they must strive to exceed demanding federal standards in order to provide the highest quality services. At the end of the day, he said, the programs should be about the health, welfare and future of the nation's youth.

Before his assignment with the federal government, Mr. Riggins had direct practical experience as an abstinence educator and saw, first hand, the benefits that a quality program can offer to young people. Mr. Riggins reaffirmed his commitment to providing programs with the resources to deliver the highest quality in abstinence education.

Dr. Stanley Koutstaal, Acting Associate Commissioner of the Family and Youth Services Bureau, another featured speaker at the three-day conference, stressed the need for medical accuracy in abstinence programs. Dr. Koutstaal is having all abstinence programs that receive federal funds reviewed by medical professionals in order to ensure quality and excellence.

Dr. Koutstaal told the educators that in promoting abstinence they should highlight the health benefits for young people, the high cost to society of teen sexual activity in terms of sexually transmitted infections and teen pregnancies, and the emotional benefits for teens who remain abstinent.

John P. Margand, Esq., Chief Executive Officer of Healthy Respect welcomed the insights and leadership of both Dr. Koutstaal and Mr. Riggins. "These are professionals who understand the issues, and know how to communicate the message that abstinence for marriage holds many benefits for young people and society," Mr. Margand said. "We at Healthy Respect look forward to working with the Family and Youth Services Bureau to reach even higher levels of excellence."

The three-day conference featured workshops on medical accuracy, program evaluation, and strategies for establishing authentic partnerships with parents and community leaders.