Connecticut has one of the lowest rates of teen pregnancy in the country, for which all should be thankful. But the state numbers can mask the fact that in some urban areas, notably Hartford, the problem is still rampant.
In 2008, the last year for which the city has statistics, 19.3 percent of live births, or 420 newborns, in Hartford were born to women under the age of 20. The statewide average was 7 percent. Though the city's numbers are down from the 700-plus births to teen moms in the mid-1990s, they are still way too high.
Thus it is encouraging that the city has received a five-year, $4.5 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ramp up its efforts to curb teen pregnancy. Four agencies will work together on the project.
Almost anything done in this area is to the good; it is a shame that the city's existing teen pregnancy prevention program, Breaking the Cycle, has had to struggle for funding in recent years. Teen pregnancy is a huge and underappreciated societal problem. According to the National Campaign To Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and other sources, children in one-parent families are more likely to be poor, have lower grades and attendance, and drop out of high school. As adults, they have higher rates of divorce and incarceration. Teen moms find it more difficult to finish high school or marry. Teen dads seeking a "baby mama" haven't learned responsible fatherhood.
Teen childbearing in the United States cost taxpayers at all levels at least $10.9 billion in 2008, according to an analysis by the National Campaign, with most costs attributed to health care, foster care, incarceration and lost tax revenue. It is critical to pay more attention to prevention; if Hartford can develop a strong citywide program, perhaps it won't need to have the state's largest police department.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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