Teen Pregnancy – Talking About it Home and Elsewhere…

The other day a flyer came home in my child’s backpack.  It said there was going to be an “Education and Family Life” program and if I wanted to exempt my child from the class, I would have to fill out the form.

“Please fill this out, I don’t want to take it, “said my 4th grader. “I’m too young for that. It’s gross.”

“It’s not gross,” I said. “It’s good for you to learn about these things. We’ve talked about it at home I know, but I think it’s good for you to hear it from an education professional.”

Why would she think it’s gross?  Apparently though she is not alone. Many families do not talk and it’s beginning to have consequences.

In March of 2009, T.C. Williams High School had 2157 students of which 104 were either teen parents or pregnant at the time. This is an alarming 4.82 percent of the population at the school.  Of the total, 4 were white, 38 were African American and 62 were Hispanic.  The last number is almost double the number of the African American children and 15 times the number of whites. Why?

An article in the Washington Post by Robert McCartney last week highlighted some of the troubling outcomes from this high birth rate among Hispanics. “The high rate of Hispanic adolescents having children — nearly double the national average and above that of any other demographic group — risks creating a new, permanent underclass. If children of youths …grow up and have babies in their teens, it would produce a cycle of poverty and dependence on government aid that everybody wants to avoid.”

This recent data translates into real dollars. Teen childbearing in the United States costs taxpayers (federal, state, and local) at least $9.1 billion, according to a 2006 report by Saul Hoffman, Ph.D. and published by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Most of the costs of teen childbearing are associated with negative consequences for the children of teen mothers, including increased costs for health care, foster care, and incarceration.

Proper access to health care, sex education combined with abstinence education (the combination of which is proven to be the most effective according to the recent research) and access to medical information on family planning and delaying sexual activity is what it will take to bring these numbers down.

What else will bring these numbers down? Talking.  In the Post article, McCartney writes about an ad campaign created by Hispanic teens to alert their counterparts on the dire consequences of having a baby and a family so early in life. A topic not talked about much in Hispanic households. “One of the biggest taboos in Latino households is talking to your kids about sexuality,” said Benjamin Andino, a Latino who helped prepare the ads aimed at young parents. At 23, he was the oldest presenter. “If you don’t talk to them, there are repercussions. Children do have children,” he said.

Children are having children. It’s happening in Alexandria and we have to help. Talking about it is just one step in the right direction.

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