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State grant will aid pregnancy prevention efforts

January 04, 2002

State grant will aid pregnancy prevention efforts



By SCOTT BUTKI
scottb@herald-mail.com


Girls Inc. of Washington County, working with two partners, plans to use a $470,308 five-year grant to try to reduce the number of teenage pregnancies in the county, the organization's executive director said Thursday.

Maureen Grove said she thinks there will be a significant reduction in the number of teen pregnancies within five years.

The money, about $95,000 per year, comes from the Governor's Office for Children and Families.

Girls Inc. will use the grant to try to reduce the number of teenagers under age 19 giving birth for the first time, Grove said.

Girls Inc. is partnering with Hagerstown Community College and the Washington County Family Center, which are addressing the grant's second priority: To reduce the number of second pregnancies by teenagers under age 19.

Program officials have projected the program initially will serve 167 families during the period that ends June 30, 2002. During the next full year, it is expected to serve 340 families. That number is expected to increase annually to 360, 385 and 410 in each of the final three years of the grant.

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The grant was awarded Dec. 18. Work will get underway in early February, Grove said.

In 2000, 189 Washington County teenagers gave birth, Washington County Health Officer William Christoffel said Thursday. That is down slightly from 228 in 1999, he said. Statistics for 2001 are not available, he said.

Earlier this year, the Health Department applied for a grant of $1.25 million over five years to help stem teenage pregnancies in Hancock and Boonsboro. The department did not receive funding, Christoffel said.

The Girls Inc. grant provides funds for a teacher to conduct two after-school programs in Washington County public schools, Grove said.

One program, "Growing Together," is for teenage girls and a parent or other adult each girl trusts, Grove said. It is designed to improve communications between the girl and the adult, she said.

The second program, "Will Power/ Won't Power," is just for the girls. It is an assertiveness training program that also focuses on conflict resolution, leadership skills and values, she said.

Girls Inc. has been offering teen pregnancy programs to its members for about 10 years, Grove said.

It has also run the two programs for five years at Western Heights and Springfield middle schools. About 900 girls have gone through the programs, she said.

Hagerstown Community College will help teenage mothers further their education, Grove said.

The odds of a teen mother having a second child are reduced when the mother gains education and work skills, Grove said.

HCC's assistance will include helping pay mothers' school fees, ensuring they show up for tests, helping them get child care and providing funding so they can get to school and to child care, Grove said.

The Washington County Family Center will hire teen mothers to work as receptionists in its office, letting them gain office skills and work experience that they can then put on a resume, Director Karen Christoff said.

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