BARTON COUNTY — The Kansas Department of Health and Human Environment has released the 2010 statistics on teen pregnancy in the state, and the good news is that, following a nation-wide trend, the Barton County figures are falling and at nearly twice the rate as the state average.
The 2010 rates show that there were a total of 51 teen pregnancies in Barton County with five ending in abortion and one ending in still birth. The rate per 1,000 is 26.8 and Barton County has dropped to 36th in the state in the rate per 1,000. The state average was 23.1 pregnancies per thousand teens.
This is an improvement from 2008 when there were a total of 69 teen pregnancies. There were 12 abortions. The rate per 1,000 was 36.3 and Barton County ranked 21st in the state in the number of teen pregnancies per 1,000.
2009 rates also showed improvement when there were 57 total pregnancies with 14 ending in abortion.
From 2008 to 2010, Barton County rates dropped from 36.3 pregnancies per 1,000 teens to 26.8 per thousand.
The rate per thousand for the state of Kansas fell as well. In 2008, the state rate was 28.6 per 1,000 and in 2010, the state rate was 23.1 per thousand. The Barton County rate fell at nearly twice the rate as the state average.
Lily Akings, director of the Barton County Health Department, said, "We need to be realistic and prepare children for the hormonal changes. It’s in all of our families. A teen pregnancy correlates to poverty levels."
Akings explained the reason that Barton County has a teen pregnancy problem. "It’s cultural beliefs and attitudes within certain ethnic groups, puritanical thinking and poverty levels. Other countries do a better job."
"You can get pregnant the first time you have sex," she said. "If you decide to become sexually active, get birth control first, including condoms.
"These are kids," said Akings. "They are not making good decisions all of the time. We need to emphasize abstinence, but have a backup plan."
Parental involvement is also crucial. "It is so important for parents to talk to kids," Janel Rose, BCHD."I wish more teens would consider adoption," said Rose.
Adoptive parents are usually really ready to have children, she said. "Catholic Social Services offers adoption assistance. And, you don’t have be a Catholic."
"Parents need to take an active role. This (teen pregnancy) is one that has a life-long effect. Sometimes (having a baby as a teen) it is not a positive thing," said Akings. "They are not ready to be mommies and daddies."
In addition, teen mothers sometimes don’t finish high school, Rose said.
"We see this every day," Akings said. "Sometimes the stress is too much. It changes your entire life."