Teen birth rates drop in county

Teenage pregnancy statistics continued to rise this year in Alabama and the nation, yet Shelby County’s numbers dropped, according to the Kids Count Data Book released Oct. 17.

A total of 74 unmarried teens gave birth in Shelby County in 2006, the most current data available. In 2004, the number was as high as 87. This year’s number accounts for only 2.8 percent of the population and places Shelby County with the lowest rate of teenage pregnancy in the state.

“We definitely don’t need to forget about it in Shelby County,” said Barbara Williams, director of the county’s Children’s Policy Council. “Working in the juvenile court system, we see younger and younger teen moms all the time. Everything is sexualized these days in the videos they watch and magazines — they can’t get away from it.”

Each county’s policy council analyzes what issues need to be addressed each year in relation to the health and safety of children. Williams said teen pregnancy did not come up in the council’s needs assessment this year but that doesn’t mean it can be ignored.

Just last year, Sav-A-Life Shelby opened a new office on U.S. 280. It currently operates two pregnancy resource centers — one in Pelham and one on U.S. 280. The organization focuses on counseling and support services for women who unexpectedly become pregnant, but also offers abstinence education to young women.

Williams said education programs offered through the Department of Human Resources such as Reality Check, a program that offers students varying scenarios and asks them to figure out how to create a budget to live on, also give students an inside look at the challenges of parenthood.

“We give them these scenarios so they can see just how hard it is to raise a child … what it takes to put food on the table and pay the bills,” Williams said. “They just have no clue what it takes.”

Alabama as a whole saw a drop from 57.1 pregnancies per 1,000 girls in 1996 to 37.5 among girls ages 10-19 in 2005. In 2007, the number climbed to 39.7 teen births per 1,000 girls.