Fewer teens are becoming young mothers, as births by teenage mothers have dropped to a record low in California.
In 2008, the rate of births among mothers ages 15 to 19 was 35.2 for every 1,000 females, a decline from 37.1 in 2007 and lower than ever before. In California, 51,704 babies were born to teen mothers in 2008, according to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).
“While the continuing decline in the teen birth rate is encouraging and welcome news, teen pregnancy remains a public health challenge,” CDPH director Dr. Mark Horton said in a Feb. 22 press release.
In 2008, there were 218 teen pregnancies in Yolo County, actually increased from 2007 of 0.1 percent. Yolo’s teen birth rate is 21.9, still below the statewide rate.
Since 1991, California has experienced a decline in teen births. The teen birth rate in 1991 was 70.9, more than twice as high as the most recent rate.
During the last 10 years, birth rates decreased among both younger and older teens. For teens ages 15 to 17, the rate declined 39 percent from 31.1 in 1998 to 19.1 in 2008. The birth rate in the age group 18-19 years dropped 27 percent from 81.9 in 1998 to 59.6 in 2008.
Norma Arceo, a CDPH spokesperson, said California’s teen birth rates have fallen due to significant investments in teen pregnancy prevention programs and services, including the Community Challenge Grant Program, the Information and Education Program and the Family PACT (Planning, Access, Care and Treatment) Program.
“California has continuously declined federal funding for abstinence-only education and supports prevention strategies that include abstinence education in conjunction with age-appropriate, bias-free, factual information that is medically accurate and objective,” Arceo said. “Working in partnership with federal, state and local government, and community based organizations, teen pregnancy prevention efforts have resulted in the decrease.”
Hispanic teens continue to have the highest birth rate. In 2008, however, the rate declined to 56.9 from a rate of 61.9 in 2007. African American teens had the second highest birth rate at 39.9, followed by Native American, 27.1; White, 13.1, and Asian/Pacific Islander, 9.6. Teens who reported multiple races had a birth rate of 29.0 in 2008.
According to 2005 research done by the non-profit Child Trends group, one quarter of Hispanics will give birth before age 20. Contraceptive use among Hispanics is relatively low and there is a tendency among Hispanic teens to hold less negative views of teen pregnancy than teens in the overall population.
Izabelle Ponce of the Yolo County Resource Center believes a possible reason for Hispanics’ high rate is that the subject of sex is not often talked about between parents and their children in Hispanic culture.
Ponce, who helps run a teen pregnancy prevention campaign – the Woodland Coalition for Youth in Woodland, said the program has helped open the dialogue between parents and teens.
Students in the Coalition created a 20-minute documentary called “Open Your Eyes” about teen pregnancy, which debuted last year in Sacramento. The students give various presentations in which they show the film.
Mitzi Inouye, a Cal-Safe education program consultant at the California Department of Education, said the program aims to prevent secondary pregnancies.
“If a student has been pregnant before, we try to help these girls stay in school,” Inouye said. “We don’t want these students to have to be responsible for another human being. They’re forced to grow up fast and have to give up some things normal teenagers do.”
ANGELA SWARTZ can be reached email@example.com.