When it comes to the rate of teen pregnancy in this country, there is indeed good news.
During the past two decades, the rate of teen girls having children has dropped by about 40 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Good news, certainly, but a steady and strong message about preventing more teen pregnancies is still needed, and communities ought to support programs that teach both prevention, and help young moms make the best of a very daunting situation.
Because, here is the reality: Even with the major drop in teen pregnancies, approximately 1,100 teen girls still give birth everyday in the U.S.
“TV, music, the Internet, and other popular youth media tend to glamorize teens having sexual intercourse and teen parenting, but the reality is starkly different,” reports the CDC. “Having a child during the teen years carries high costs — emotionally, physically, and financially — to the mother, father, child, and community.”
And that is why, as a community, we should praise and support programs like the Richmond County Adolescent Parenting Program, a new venture from the folks at Eckerd, an agency that focuses on providing services to youth and their families.
This brand new program is free to any parent up to the age 19, as long as they are a student enrolled in some type of educational program — a requirement that makes good sense.
“The two goals of this program is to help keep young parents in school, and to help prevent another pregnancy,” said Jacqueline Ellerbe-Shannon, adolescent parenting coordinator. “In 2004, Richmond County had the highest teen pregnancy rate in the state. That has gone down, but there is still a need for prevention services,” she said.
Studies show that about one in four teen mothers younger than 18 will give birth to a second baby within two years after the birth of their first child. The parenting program hopes to target those moms and provide them with services that will encourage them to stay in school and delay having more children.
“This program will focus on parenting education, and stimulating opportunities for growth,” said Ellerbe-Shannon. “In addition to helping these young people secure their future, we aim to help them become independent and become better parents.”
Program leaders will help young parents follow the developmental progress of children by interacting with the whole family during home visits. The new program is also working to develop a toy, clothing and resource exchange for parents. The goal of the “resource library” is to allow parents to check out toys, books, clothing and other items and return them when they no longer need them.
The Richmond County program is new, and in the beginning stages of building up a resource library. The program is reaching out to the community, seeking donations of new or gently used items for babies and children. Along with these donations, the program is also seeking Walmart gift cards that can be used for the purchase of consumable items, like formula and disposable items like baby wipes and diapers.
A donation drive is planned for noon Aug. 17, at 377 Mizpah Road in Rockingham.
For more information about the program or the donation drive, contact Ellerbe-Shannon at 910-986-6498.