The report revealed that Boone County ranks 52nd out of 55 counties in West Virginia for its teen birth rate.
In 2011, 70.5 out of 1,000 females age 15-19 gave birth in the county, compared to a statewide rate of 46.3. In 2005, 56.8 out of 1,000 females in the same age group gave birth in the county, a 24.1 percent increase in the teen birth rate.
The West Virginia Department of Education expects that every school in the state presents statewide content standards around sex education, set forth in policy 25-10.
But how to implement the content is up to local school systems, and each does so a little differently, according to spokesperson Liza Cordeiro.
Condoms, birth control pills and other family planning services are not available in Boone County schools, although some form of sex education is taught in health and character education classes.
“What we have done with the health curriculum in Boone County School is incorporate all women’s and men’s health issues, including age appropriate sex education and making good health decisions,” said Sue Peros, Director of School Nurses for Boone County Schools.
Peros said, for example, a sixth grade student may be taught about basic puberty and changes going on in their bodies, while a high school level student is given information about teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
“We always provide an informed letter about topics of sexual health,” Peros explained. “The letter states what will be discussing and parent can contact school in writing if they don’t want child to attend this class, when a sensitive subject may be discussed.”
Although parents can opt out their child, very few do, according to Peros.
“I think most parents want their children to be informed and they know everything we do is age appropriate,” she said. “We even separate boys and girls into groups, depending on the subject.”
Health teachers and nurses teach most of the curriculum in the schools, Peros added.
“As a community we should not assume that just because we have a high teen pregnancy rate that all teens are sexually active,” Peros said. “Not all are and not all are even in school. Some pregnant teens may have already graduated.”
Peros says Boone County School does not just teach about reproductive health, but also character behavior, such as tobacco use, substance abuse and other character issues.
“We want to teach them how to make better decisions about their health as well as their future,” she said. “We feel it is so important that teens have the confidence and information to make better decisions. Studies have shown that substance abuse and teen pregnancy go hand in hand.”
Peros also believes it will take a team effort from the entire community to lower teen birth rates.
“It starts at home with parents and it also includes churches and other faith-based organizations, as well as school-based programs, the health department and the entire community,” she said.
Peros says, however, no matter how supportive a program, how good parenting is or how much information and services are made available, the sad truth is that many teens will still become pregnant.
“Today, this and many other character issues are constant battles for parents, teachers and the community,” she said. “Sometimes you can do all the right things as a parent and give all the support, but teen pregnancy still happens.”
All groups appear to endorse abstinence from sex for teens until they have a lifetime partner and professionals who deal with these issues generally agree that there is no single source of blame.
“There are many factors that go into a teen pregnancy rate,” says said Julie Miller, a nurse practitioner with the Boone County Health Department.
In Boone County, teens can get free family planning services at the Boone County Health Department.
“We offer confidential information, and a teen can come in without parent, but encourage that someone in the family knows and comes with them,” said Miller.
Miller says a full exam is offered and discussion about appropriate birth control for each individual teen is available.
“Each person is different,” Miller said. “Family planning is also open for teen boys too. Boys and their parents also have to take some responsibility as well.”
Miller says she is not surprised by the ranking.
“I think a lot of teens think pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases will not happen to them, even though they are having unprotected sex,” she said. “There is no stigma today attached with teen pregnancy, like there was years ago. It appears to be more accepted today.”
Teens must have an appointment to come in and once a month a late clinic is open until 5:30 p.m., so teens can come after school.
To make an appointment with the Boone County Health Department, call 304-369-7967.
“We offer many family planning services, but we need teens and parents to take advantage of them,” Miller says.
Condoms and emergency contraception and counseling are available for free at any time, anonymously, without an appointment.
Studies also show that teen pregnancy rates are high among youth of all races and ethnicities who are socioeconomically disadvantaged.
West Virginia's child poverty rate, though, has grown from 19.1 percent in 1969 to more than 23 percent today, according to the report, "Child Poverty in West Virginia: A Growing and Persistent Problem."
One in three young children in the state live in poverty, according to the report. Children with parents who didn't graduate high school, those with single mothers, African Americans and those with unemployed parents are more likely to live in poverty, the report says.
The annual cost of child poverty in West Virginia is $3.9 billion, according to the report.
“Our Children, Our Future” is a new campaign to end child poverty spearheaded by the WV Healthy Kids and Families Coalition. They have included teen pregnancy in their 2013 platform. They want to see funding for community health centers to provide more hours convenient for students, among several other initiatives.
“During hard economic times, it is more important than ever to monitor child well-being,” said Margie Hall, executive director of West Virginia Kids Count.
The data shows that 1 in 7 West Virginia teenage girls will have a baby.
To view the Kids Count data, visit http://www. wvkidscountfund.org/.
For more information on teen pregnancy from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, visit http://www.cdc.gov/teenpregnancy/.