County teen birth rate declines

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

Babies born to Curry County young teens in 2006 dropped 18 percent, according to statistics recently released by the New Mexico Department of Health.

In Roosevelt County, the number increased 43 percent, statistics show.

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

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.

Clovis Municipal Schools Health Director Rhonda Sparks said there is no program set up to specifically address teen parenting or pregnancy.

“Our focus is on abstinence but it becomes the social issue versus the educational issue. We’re not the only place kids are (and) we’re not the only ones they’re getting the message from. Lots of things are giving them different messages,” she said.

Laura Adkins directs 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

Babies born to teen mothers 17 and younger compared to total number of babies born:
Curry County
2006 — 51 of 927
2005 — 62 of 897
Roosevelt County
2006 — 35 of 333
2005 — 20 of 320

Source: New Mexico Department of Health