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Pregnancy prevention programs discussed

June 21, 2005|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

A girl who went to Community Free Clinic in Hagerstown reporting a date rape told nurses she couldn't talk to her parents about the incident, a recurring communication problem that could be at the center of the teen pregnancy issue, the clinic's executive director said Monday.

"They're young and they don't feel like they have the support from home to talk about these issues," Robin Roberson told the Community Task Force on Teen Pregnancy Prevention.

Roberson and representatives from Boys & Girls Club of Washington County, Girls Inc. of Washington County, Washington County Health Department and The Family Center told the group of about 30 people at Hagerstown YMCA about prevention and intervention programs - mainly promoting abstinence over safe-sex education - offered through their centers.

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A woman from the audience asked Roberson how much of the problem is that children don't want to listen to their parents.

"National data shows that teens do listen," Health Department Health Officer William Christoffel said. He acknowledged that teenagers can be stubborn.

The woman who asked the question left the meeting early.

Dale Bannon, executive director of United Way of Washington County, said the task force started as a nonprofit group, but it hopes to get businesses, parents and teens involved in its discussions.

According to published reports, 185 Washington County females ages 15 to 19 gave birth in 2003. The county birth rate that year was 45 births per every 1,000 females in that age group.

That rate was the fourth-highest among 24 jurisdictions in Maryland. It was higher than the state's rate of 33 births per 1,000 females and the national rate of 41.7 births per 1,000 females in that age group.

Christoffel told the group that "we really need to start focusing on high-risk students."

Middle school, he said, is the place to start talking to children about the risks of sex. He said the youngest girl to give birth in Washington County last year was 12.

Roberson said the clinic offers birth control and condoms, but teens have said they won't be responsible enough to use them.

"I think that we're leaving having a good understanding of some incredible services we have available in intervention and prevention," Bannon said after the meeting. "We're also realizing there's gaps in services in the county."

The group will meet again in late August or September when the results of a survey on teen pregnancy are complete, he said.

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