Teen pregnancy rate drops

Nov. 14, 2012 @ 07:34 PM

The North Carolina teen pregnancy rate fell for the second year in a row, according to new data released by the North Carolina State Center for Health Statistics. 

In Union County, 213 women aged 15 to 19 became pregnant — 27.2 per 1,000 15 to 19 year-old women. In 2010, there 269 women aged 15 to 19 who became pregnant 26.3  per 1,000 15 to 19 year-old women.

According to the data, 24.9 percent of the pregnancies were repeat pregnancies. Of that, 61.8 per 1,000 of the mothers were African American, 50.5 per 1,000  of the mothers were Hispanic and 16.5 per 1,000 of the mothers where white. The rates are based pregnancies rates among 15 to 19 year-old women. 

"Officials say North Carolina's success can be attributed to a combination of national trends, smart investments and North Carolina policies that make it easier for teens to avoid getting pregnant or causing a pregnancy," a statement from the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign said. 

According to the statement, North Carolina has made an effort to place prevention resources in the most high-need counties and with the most at-risk groups. 

"Cultural shifts have made it easier for our young people to avoid pregnancy," Kay Philips, CEO of the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina said in a statement. "However, it's important to realize that those cultural shifts would not have happened without policies that promote more effective education and access to health care." 

During the 2012 session, the North Carolina General Assembly target about $3.15 million in federal funding toward the state's teen pregnancy prevention initiatives. 

The young women in Union County Public Schools who become pregnant have a support system in place. 

The Best Smart Program is funded through the Alliance for Children. Samantha McGuirt is the lead teen parenting support counselor. 

Recently, the program expanded, they now have three full-time workers. They assist students at Monroe, Forest Hills, Sun Valley, Piedmont, Weddington and Marvin Ridge High Schools. 

"It's a comprehensive parenting program and we begin working with students at the time of pregnancy," McGuirt said. "Usually we are notified of the pregnancies by the nurse, or maybe the teacher, a friend, sometimes the students...just different ways. Usually, it's immediate." 

McGuirt goes over pre-natal information with the students. They make sure there is a balance between the pregnancy and the school. Students continue in the program from the time of their pregnancy, until they graduate. 

Last year, 100 percent of the students eligible for the program graduated.

"We really encourage them to stay in school," McGuirt said. 

If there is an attendance problem, McGuirt checks in on the students. They also coordinate daycare for the children. 

"We try to touch each area to make sure the student is getting what she (or he) needs," McGuirt said. 

The program began six years ago. It was piloted in Monroe and Forest Hills High Schools. 

The students respond well to the program, McGuirt said. 

"It gives them someone to build a strong relationship within the school with," McGuirt said. "For some of them, sometimes they lose friends, things at home become unstable...but they have someone neutral who's going to be a support system for them." 

The program focuses on self-esteem and being positive.

After a six-week maternity leave, McGuirt makes sure the student returns. While the mother is out, McGuirt acts as a liaison between the student and teachers, delivering assignments and making sure the student does not fall behind. 

In addition, the program uses a grant to run their "Baby Bucks" program. 

The program allows parents to earn diapers, a baby seat and other necessary items based on attending parenting and pregnancy classes, report card grades, school attendance and other accomplishments.

McGuirt said the numbers do not fluctuate much from year to year. The average number of women in the program remains about the same.

The APPCNC states that North Carolina has the 14th highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation. The organization worries that potential budget cuts could hurt the progress. 

"We run the risk of backsliding if we take away the tools that helped us get so far, and that would have tough consequences for our economy, our schools and our quality of life," Philips said in a statement.