New statistics raise concern

Teen birth rates are on the rise in West Virginia and that is a concern.

One in seven teen girls in the state will have a baby. West Virginia ranks in the bottom 10 of states for teen birth rates.

West Virginia KIDS COUNT recently released a report that stated West Virginia’s teen birth rate for decades was decreasing. But the rate increased between 2005 and 2009. The figures for 2010 showed a slight decrease.

KIDS COUNT reported when teens get pregnant they are much more likely to drop out of school, live in poverty and have babies that are less healthy.

KIDS COUNT is pushing a comprehensive sex education curriculum as a way to decrease the number of teens having babies.

Brooke County had the third lowest teen birth rate in the state. Hancock County had the seventh lowest.

In Brooke County in 2011 about 26 teens out of 1,000 had a baby.

The worst county in the state, McDowell County, had a rate of almost 96 birth for 1,000 teen girls.

Monongalia County had the lowest birth rate per thousand teen girls at 14.

Schools and parents need to work together to stop teen girls from getting pregnant. Parents need to make sure that schools are offering education to students on the negative effects of a teen girl getting pregnant. A teen mom faces difficulties, including dropping out of school to take care of the baby. That teen mother without a high school diploma faces a life of poverty. The child will then suffer, regardless of the social programs in place that offer help. The social programs are then pushed to the limit with the number of teen moms seeking help.

The impact of teen pregnancy is obvious in McDowell County.

The county located in southern West Virginia is plagued with high unemployment, poverty and drug abuse, also has the state’s highest infant mortality rate at 16 per 1,000 live births, the report says. That’s a 50 percent increase from 2005.

And it has the state’s second-highest rate of child abuse and neglect, with 46 cases per 1,000 children. That’s up 39 percent from 2005, the report says.

McDowell also ranks worst in West Virginia for births to women and girls with less than a 12th-grade education at 31 percent and worst for children living in poverty at 45 percent.

Brooke County had the third best ranking in the state for the percent of births to mothers with less than a 12th grade education, and the second best for the percent of high school dropouts.

For child abuse and neglect cases, Hancock County was ranked 35 out of 55 counties. Brooke County was ranked 16th.

Hancock County was ranked sixth best for children living in poverty. Brooke County was ranked eighth best.

While Brooke and Hancock counties were ranked in the top 10 best in the state for teen birth rates, parents and school officials need to improve the figures. The number of child abuse and neglect cases in both counties is alarming and that trend needs addressed.