In 2012, we launched a three-year organizing strategy with youth leaders and adult allies in healthcare, family and school systems to wage cultural advocacy for change in the way people parent, teach and treat students at home, at school and at the doctor’s office respectively.
This strategic plan helps us realize our vision for a world in which all young adults use their power to achieve health and well-being in their own lives and for their communities. The plan also clarifies eleven values that are central to our functioning and a theory of change that we believe breaks down barriers to access and education.
These pathways for change serve a dual purpose as social media hashtags to start intentional conversations and debates about the following crucial issues through which public consciousness can be changed:
We believe that an organized effort for cultural shifts in beliefs about young people’s rights and capacity to make decisions about their bodies will both impact policy and the direct experience that young people encounter in accessing sexuality education and sexual health care. We believe that this process involves both raising the capacity of youth AND adults to partner for change.
Founded in 1977 as the Illinois Caucus on Teenage Pregnancy, our organization has accomplished much in the fields of adolescent welfare, workforce development, health, and parenting.
The 1960s introduced the birth control pill—and the potential for women to gain greater control over their reproductive lives. In 1967, Cook County Hospital began dispensing birth control, and within 10 years the hospital’s birth rate dropped by a third. In 1969, a new state law legalizing family planning services for unmarried adolescents of any age passed after an 11-year-old gave birth to twins.
In the 1970s, the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union worked tirelessly to set up grassroots health programs for women. When CWLU demobilized, activist Jenny Knauss continued organizing around health care system reform on behalf of Illinois young people, and in 1983 she became the first executive director of the Caucus. In 1991, we changed our name to the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health to reflect the organization’s broadening agenda.
For more than three decades, ICAH has organized and trained young people to advocate for issues that directly affect their lives and communities. ICAH has conducted statewide research, developed resources, changed public policy, and hosted frequent events and training sessions for youth and service providers, always with an emphasis on building youth leadership skills and serving marginalized populations, including low-income, immigrant, homeless, LGBTQ, and pregnant and parenting adolescents.
Today ICAH continues to work in partnership with youth, advocating policies and practices that promote a positive approach to adolescent sexual health and parenting.
1977: Illinois Caucus on Teenage Pregnancy founded following a conference on the increasing adolescent pregnancy rate nationwide.
1986: First Youth Advisory Board established.
1993: Legislation introduced and passed to establish a committee to report to the Illinois General Assembly on pregnant and parenting youth public aid policies.
1995: Successful Networking for Adolescent Parents program developed to create a statewide case management system for pregnant and parenting wards.
1996: Statewide coalition Youth Need to Know Network formed to oppose federal abstinence- only-until-marriage policy.
2002: All Teen Health website launched, making adolescent health information available to youth, parents, and service providers.
2006: Chicago Public Schools and Urbana School District pass school board policies mandating comprehensive sexuality education.
2008: Illinois Youth Policy Council formed to advocate for responsible sexual health education and the rejection of federal abstinence-only program funding.
2009: Freeport School District mandates comprehensive sexuality education.
2010: State Sexuality Education Report and Recommendations released.
Download and read a detailed organizational timeline from 1960-2010.
The Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health is an equal opportunity employer and values diversity in all its definitions.