Work continues as teen pregnancy rates decline

Dear Editor,

Did you know?

• The teen birth rate in Barnwell County has dropped 70 percent from its peak in 1991.

• In 2014, Barnwell County had 37 teen births and was ranked #3 in South Carolina for teen births.

• In 2015, Barnwell County had 18 teen births among females ages 15 to 19 - a decrease of 19 teen births for a decrease of 48.6 percent! The county’s ranking for teen births dropped from 3rd to 30th in the state.

• Teen birth rates in Barnwell County have decreased substantially among both younger (15-17 years of age) and older teens (18-19 years of age). The teen birth rate among younger teens has decreased from 48.6 to 16.9 percent and the birth rate among older teens has decreased from 42.4 to 39.9 percent (rates based per 1,000 teens).

• Thirty-eight counties in South Carolina have higher teen birth rates than Barnwell County.

• 1 in 4 girls in South Carolina will become pregnant before her 20th birthday.

• 95 percent of South Carolinians rate teen pregnancy as a problem in their community.

• 83 percent of South Carolinians support comprehensive sex education in schools.

• Teen pregnancy costs South Carolina tax payers $166 million per year.

• 52 percent of all mothers on welfare had their first child as a teenager.

• Less than half of teen mothers in South Carolina graduate from high school.

• Only 51 percent of women who are teen mothers get their high school degree by age 22.

As May was Teen Pregnancy Prevention Awareness Month and the 2016-2017 school-year has come to a close, I want to say thank you to the many partners who have worked tirelessly to implement comprehensive sex education programs for youth in grades 6th-9th and the many community partners who collaborated with the Axis I Center to provide parent-teen communication workshops.

In October 2016, the Axis I Center of Barnwell was awarded a two-year Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP) grant targeted towards reducing teen births in Barnwell County. The grant included the Axis I Center of Barnwell and the following partners: Barnwell School Districts 19, 29, and 45; Ashleigh Place Girls’ Home; Ned Branch Baptist Church; Second Baptist Church; Low Country Health Care; Barnwell County Health Department; Jermaine Moore and the WIZ Radio; and our 12 teen-friendly condom access points—Barnwell County Health Department, Plum Pretty Salon; Attractions Salon, Kool Aid’s Barbershop, Kreative Barbers, Anointed Handz, Compliments of Tye, Artistic Barbershop, Tina’s Salon, Mr. Wish’s Barbershop, and Jackie’s Unique Hairstyling Salon.

The grant is federally funded by Family and Youth Services Bureau, Administration on Children, Youth and Families (U.S. DHHS) and is administered through the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and the South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. The Axis I Center of Barnwell served as the lead and fiscal agency for the grant.

The Axis I Center of Barnwell also thanks our youth serving organization partners for providing parent-child communication workshops. Those groups include: Community Uplift Program (CUP), Williston; Young Men of God, Williston; Dreams Imagination & Gift Development (D.I.G.), Williston; YES Girls of Blackville; and Boyz to Men, Barnwell. These groups are providing some amazing programs for local youth and Axis I Center greatly appreciates and values their partnership.

We are especially pleased that teen birth rates in Barnwell County have decreased 70 percent over the past 24 years; however, there is still much work to be done. Teens must receive medically-accurate, age-appropriate education in comprehensive sex education. Sex education helps adolescents gain the information, skills and motivation to make healthy decisions about sex and sexuality.

Comprehensive sex education allows students to learn about a broad variety of topics related to sex and sexuality, exploring values and beliefs about those topics and gaining the skills that are needed to navigate relationships and manage one’s own sexual health. Comprehensive sexuality education refers to K-12 programs that cover a broad range of topics related to: human development (including reproduction and puberty); relationships (including families, friendships, romantic relationships and dating); personal skills (including communication, negotiation, and decision-making); sexual behavior (including abstinence and sexuality throughout life); sexual health (including sexually transmitted diseases, contraception, and pregnancy).

Sex education may take place in schools, in community settings, and at home.

The Axis I Center believes that parents play a critical and central role in providing sex education to their children.

The Axis I Center and its partners are committed to providing students in 6th-9th grades comprehensive sex education that will enable them with the knowledge and skills that enable them to make sound decisions regarding their sexual health thus achieving academic success and achievement of their goals and dreams.

The Axis I Center has established a PREP Community Workgroup to identify the issues that can lead to teen pregnancy and develop/implement an effective plan to reduce the teen birth rate in Barnwell County while improving the academic outcomes of adolescents.

If you would like to participate in PREP Community Workgroup meetings or get more information on services being provided in Barnwell County to reduce the teen birth rate, please contact Pam Rush at the Axis I Center of Barnwell by calling (803) 541-1245.

Pam Rush,

Axis I Center of Barnwell