Area’s teen birth rate rising

By Sharna Johnson: Freedom New Mexico

The number of babies born to Roosevelt County teens in 2006 shot up an alarming 43 percent, according to statistics recently released by the New Mexico Department of Health.

At the same time babies born to Curry County young teens dropped 18 percent, statistics show.

In Roosevelt County, there were 35 babies born to mothers 17 and younger, up from 20 in 2005, the report showed. In 2006, 51 babies were born to Curry County teens 17 years old and under, compared to 62 in 2005.

Within ethnic groups, the highest number of teen births in the state are attributed to Hispanics, according to Donna Bossey of the New Mexico Department of Health.

New Mexico traditionally ranks among the highest in the nation when it comes to teen birth rates, Bossey said.

However, teen birth rates are steadily decreasing.

“Although we do have a significant birth rate, our rate is continuing to decline, just like the U.S. rate is continuing to decline,” she said.

Bossey, who serves as the chief of the Bureau of Vital Records and Health Statistics, said reducing teen pregnancy rates is a big priority for the state. She said overall dropping rates are a credit to community and school programs aimed at prevention.

Laura Adkins directs such a program for teen parents at Portales High School called GRADS.

Teens don’t always reconcile abstinence with social influences, she said.

“A lot of them will just say, ‘Miss, you’re just old fashioned,’ and I tell them it’s a self-esteem issue,” Adkins said. “You have to be proud enough of yourself to say you’re worth waiting for.”

“They don’t have child care sometimes and they’ll give up education in a minute to raise their child and go get a job, not realizing that in the long run they’re hurting themselves,” she said.

GRADS students work to finish high school, develop life skills and provide a sound future for their children, Adkins said.

A child development center at the school provides day care so parents can attend class and conducts screenings and developmental education to reduce the disadvantages children of teen parents face.

Adkins said the immediate goal of her program is to help teen parents finish school but the ultimate goal is to break the cycle for future generations.

“Parenting is the most important job you’ll ever have and they’re starting it at an age where they haven’t even been parented through their life yet,” she said.

By the numbers:

Roosevelt County:
2006 — of 333 babies born, 35 were born to teen mothers 17 and younger2
2005 — of 320 babies born, 20 were born to teen mothers 17 and younger

Curry County:
2006 — of 927 babies born, 62 were born to teen mothers 17 and younger
2005 — of 897 babies born, 51 were born to teen mothers 17 and younger

New Mexico:
2006 — of 29,918 babies born, 1,653 were born to teen mothers 17 and younger
2005 — of 28,822 babies born, 1,707 were born to teen mothers 17 and younger