The teen pregnancy rate in West Virginia is on the decline. But thousands of girls across the state each year are still having babies and dropping out of school as a result.
The latest numbers from the 2012 Kids Count Data Book show that 45 in every 1,000 West Virginia girls will have a baby before she’s out of her teens. The national rate is 35 per thousand.
West Virginia Kids Count Report Executive Director Margie Hale says the most striking figures are county by county.
“The difference between the best county and the worst county is huge,” Hale said. “The best county is Monongalia at a rate of 14 per thousand and the worst county is McDowell at 95 per thousand.”
Hale says the West Virginia Department of Education has put together a comprehensive sex education program that begins in the 5th grade. However, some counties aren’t taking advantage of that.
“There are a large number of schools where kids are not getting this segment of health education and it’s a reluctance to talk about sex,” according to Hale.
She says that can lead to some very serious consequences. Teen mothers tend to live in poverty. They and their babies have poorer health. They don’t receive much support from their families. And 80 percent of teen mothers in West Virginia drop out of high school.
Hale says effective sex education has proven to reduce the number of teen births but communities have to acknowledge that and ask some critical questions.
“Are we teaching sex education in the schools? Are we helping kids with difficult risk-taking behaviors? Are we helping them make decisions about how to say no? Let’s make that happen,” Hale said.
To find out more about the 2012 Kids Count Data Book, log on to www.wvkidscount.org