Pa. teens warn about pregnancy

May 01, 1997


Staff Writer, Waynesboro

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - If she could do it all over again, a Chambersburg, Pa., teen mother said, she would wait until she was older and married before having children.

"I'm not ashamed of anything," said Latoshia Perry, 16, the mother of a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old. "But if I could go back, I would wait until I was married."

This year, Franklin County ranks as one of the top 10 counties in the state in the ratio of teen pregnancies to total population, according to statistics from the Pennsylvania Coalition to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Franklin County was ranked ninth out of 67 Pennsylvania counties for the ratio of teen pregrancies to total population.


Fulton County, historically No. 1 in the rankings, was ranked second highest in the state this year.

Perry and other members of a panel spoke to and answered questions from eighth graders at Greencastle Middle School on Wednesday about their experiences as single teen mothers.

The program, sponsored by Family Health Services of Chambersburg, kicked off a series of statewide awareness efforts for Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month.

Since it began in November 1995, about 40 pregnant teens in Franklin County have been referred to Family Health Services, the private, nonprofit organization that offers parenting classes, home visits, and other programs to pregnant teens, said Ann Spottswood, education coordinator.

"We need to reach more teens," Spottswood said.

Wednesday's panel discussion was part of a program called "Postponing Sexual Involvement" that Spottswood presents to middle school students in Franklin County.

Perry and Crystal McCleary, 18, whose daughter turns 2 next month, agreed to discuss their situations with the students in an effort to help them understand the difficulties that come with being single teen parents.

"I did it so they wouldn't make the same mistakes we did," said Perry, who attends high school full time and works 30 hours a week at a fast-food restaurant to support herself and two children.

"I want them to understand what we have to do every day," McCleary said.

The teens emphasized that having a baby puts a strain on finances, particularly if there is no financial support by the child's father or other family members.

With help only from her grandmother, McCleary said she is more than $1,000 in debt. She's two grades behind in school, having quit when she learned she was pregnant at age 16, and her plans to go to college and become an accountant have been put on hold.

When Perry became pregnant, she said her family was angry with her and some stopped seeing her. Since having her children, Perry said she has to stay at home and can't go out with her friends.

The teen mothers suggested that more can be done in home and schools to lower teen pregnancy rates.

"Parents need to explain what's going on. They need to sit down and talk to their kids and show support," said McCleary.

Middle schools, in addition to teaching about the consequences of alcohol, tobacco and drugs, should include instruction on the effects of teen pregnancy, McCleary said.

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