Boynton Beach - The number of babies born to teen mothers in Palm Beach County continued to drop in 2016, a historic 10th consecutive year there’s been a decrease.
While that’s great news, there is still an average of 11 teen mothers giving birth every week in the county and one-sixth of them already have at least one child. Those mothers and their babies often face a host of social issues and there are substantial public health costs to the community.
“Babies born to teen mothers are more likely to be born prematurely and born underweight,” said Lisa Williams-Taylor, Children’s Services Council CEO. “It is imperative the community continues to raise awareness about teen pregnancy. We also must ensure that teen parents get the support their families need.”
That’s why Children’s Services Council issued a proclamation at its Thursday meeting recognizing May as Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month. The Board of Palm Beach County Commissioners issued a similar proclamation earlier this month.
After teen births peaked in Palm Beach County in 2006 with 1,418, they have been plummeting with 619 in 2016. The teen birth rate in Palm Beach County is the lowest it has been in at least two decades.
Those teens who do give birth must confront whether they want to continue with their education and how to support their child. Studies show that less than half of teen mothers ever graduate high school and less than 2 percent of mothers who have children before 18 have a college degree by age 30.
One of the most effective youth programs nationwide for teen pregnancy prevention is the Teen Outreach Program (known as TOP). TOP helps at-risk teenagers establish healthy behaviors and life skills while developing a sense of purpose. Last year, the Council funded 41 TOP clubs throughout the community that served more than 600 children ages 11-18.
The Council also funds a variety of programs that support pregnant mothers, ranging from Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies of Palm Beach County to in-home visiting programs like Nurse-Family Partnership.
To promote teen pregnancy prevention, the Council distributed 40,000 wristbands to middle and high school counselors as well as school clinics, the 10 BRIDGES site and TOP clubs.
In other business
Mental Health Awareness: The Council also issued a proclamation declaring May as Mental Health Awareness and Trauma-Informed Care Month. Mental illness affects all age groups with many children and adults never receiving treatment. Treatment is especially crucial for children. From 2013 to 2015, 1,811 children ages 1 through 5 in Palm Beach County received mental health services, a rate of 8.2 per 1,000 children. That’s nearly double the state average. Children’s Services Council funds multiple services that promote socio-emotional well-being and mental health for children and families.
Children’s Services Council, a local special-purpose government created by Palm Beach County voters in 1986 and reauthorized in 2014, provides leadership, funding, services and research on behalf of the county’s children so they grow up healthy, safe and strong. To learn more, please visit www.cscpbc.org or contact Shana Cooper, public information officer, at 561.740.7000 ext. 2170.