Local teen pregnancy rates alarmingWritten by Lauren Amstutz | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Amy Schak was only 17 when she found out she was pregnant. Just entering her senior year at Northview High School in Sylvania, she had spent the entire summer hanging out with friends. Lately, she had been spending a lot of time getting sick. That’s when it dawned on her — she was pregnant.
“I cried,” Schak remembers. “I couldn’t believe it and didn’t know how to tell my parents.”
Her pregnancy became reality when she saw her child’s beating heart on her first trip to the doctor.
“My dad was disappointed at first, which to me was worse than anger,” she said. “Adoption, adoption, adoption was his message to me because it’s really hard to be a single mother”
The teen finished her senior year of high school early, but even that was a challenge. Schak tried to hide the pregnancy from her classmates, but most of them could tell she was expecting and the gossiping and name-calling began.
Even teachers proved to be two-faced by breaking confidentiality rules and talking about it among themselves.
The courageous teen weighed her options and decided she wanted to take on the challenge. Just before her 18th birthday, her beautiful baby boy was born, and Schak’s young life changed forever.
“Being a mom is so much harder than you can ever imagine,” Shack said. “Once the baby was born, I had to grow up right then and there.”
Thankfully, Mom’s House, a nonprofit organization in Downtown Toledo, helped her. Mom’s House provides free day care for teen mothers while they attend school. Most importantly, they offer counseling and teach responsible parenting. Their motto, “hand up, not a hand out” says it all.
In return for their services, young moms must attend school full time, maintain passing grades and volunteer at Mom’s House each week. Between Mom’s House and her helpful family, Schak’s baby is well cared for. This makes it possible for her to work toward a nursing degree at Mercy College, which she is on track to complete this fall.
Unfortunately, Mom’s House can’t take care of the hundreds of teens who get pregnant in Lucas County every year. According to the Ohio Department of Health, Lucas County had an estimated 875 pregnant females ages 10 to 19 in 2007, the highest number among all counties in Ohio.
“I am afraid that we’re seeing a trend,” said Lisa Perks, CEO of Planned Parenthood. “Toledo is experiencing what a lot of urban cities are experiencing — it’s a cycle that’s difficult to break.”
Many Toledo teens follow parental examples, often keeping them in poverty. Perks said it takes an entire community to change a complicated problem, and unfortunately the problem keeps getting more complicated.
“These days kids are bombarded with sexual images, much more so today than years ago,” Perks said. “The world has changed; kids have easy access to information on the Internet, even sexual images.”
As the world changes, so should education methods. Perks said she believes schools can’t talk just about how the body changes during puberty. She also said teaching an abstinence-based curriculum isn’t effective because it doesn’t prepare students for the real world.
Toledo Public Schools is trying to combat these statistics. Teachers are helping students deal with peer pressures through a curriculum called Reducing the Risk. Junior high and high school health classes throughout the district are learning alternative ways to avoid unprotected sex.
However, according to Planned Parenthood, the reality is that young people also rely on their parents for information.
“I think we should talk to them at younger ages and explain that you may think you’re in love, but you won’t find your soul mate at age 14,” Schak said.
According to tips from www.plannedparenthood.org, children learn about sexual behavior from their parents.
“If you find it difficult to start a conversation, just use everyday occurrences to prompt one,” Perks said. “For example, ask them what they think about a family member or friend getting pregnant or ask them how old they should be before they start dating.”
In honor of Pregnancy Prevention Month, push aside any fear you have and muster up the courage to talk about sex. Even though it’s hard to believe, your pubescent and sometimes squirrelly teen really does want to have an open discussion about the birds and the bees.
Did you know?
Almost 19 million new STD infections occur every year in the United States.
Get Fit Toledo Events:
June 13: 50+ Sports Classic, for People 50 years of age or older.
Lauren Amstutz is media relations director of Get Fit Toledo.