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Coalition offers teen pregnancy prevention kits

March 28, 2007|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN

The Washington County Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition said it will use parental influence to help reduce the county's teen birth rate, which is the fourth highest in the state.

Coalition Coordinator Carrol Lourie said the county ranks behind Baltimore City, and Caroline and Dorchester counties on the Eastern Shore, according to birth rates among 15- to 19-year-olds in 2004, the most recent year from which data is available.

The coalition hosted an event Wednesday afternoon at the Washington County Free Library to launch its parent tool kit. Sixteen people, the majority of them public school employees or workers with community agencies, attended, Lourie said.

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The tool kit, which is a folder filled with brochures and information sheets, includes tips to help parents talk to their children about sex and sex-related issues. Information also is available on community resources available to teens and their parents.

The coalition includes about 50 agencies and private citizens working to lower the county's "unacceptable teen birth rate," Lourie said. About 200 teens in Washington County give birth each year, she said.

The coalition is now affiliated with United Way of Washington County, but Lourie said within six months it will be operating as an independent nonprofit organization.

Coalition partners include Washington County Public Schools, the Washington County Health Department, Girls Inc. of Washington County, Hagerstown Community College and The Herald-Mail Co.

"The attitude about teen pregnancy has been ... well, that happens," Lourie said. "We want to change that."

Laurel Good, associate director of Girls Inc., said that parents often want to talk to their children about sex, but don't know how. Or they believe they have had a "sex talk," but their children disagree.

The kit includes information about how to be an "askable" parent, meaning that children see the parent as approachable and open to questions about sex. Tips offered were to acquire a broad foundation of factual information from reliable sources, learn and use the correct terms for body parts and also just to talk with children about the topic.

Lourie said that parent tool kits were being sent out before Wednesday's event. Twenty-five were sent to E. Russell Hicks Middle School at the request of an intervention specialist.

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