In Connecticut and nationally, the number of teen pregnancies has decreased dramatically. But the number of teen births remain high in the state’s largest cities.
From 2006 to 2010, there were 22 pregnancies for every 1,000 teens in cities such as New Britain, New Haven, Waterbury and Bridgeport, according to figures from the state Department of Public Health.
According to the New Haven Register, an average of 45.6 out of every 1,000 teen girls in New Haven gave birth between 2006 and 2010, while in New Britain, the number was 57 per 1,000, and in Hartford, 61.9 out of every 1,000.
Heather Mills, co-executive director at Pathways/Senderos Center in New Britain, explains why the number of teens getting pregnant remains high in cities like New Britain.
“The discrepancy between the teen pregnancy rates in New Britain and other cities, in comparison to other areas of the state, is the widening income gap,” Mills said. “Cities in Connecticut are home to a high concentration of poor families and a lack of opportunities and resources. When teens do not see a future for themselves and a way out of the situation they are in, then having a baby does not make much of a difference [to them].”
Greater New Britain Teen Pregnancy Prevention, Inc., runs two prevention models funded through the state Department of Social Services. The first program, which is Pathways, is modeled after the highly successful Carrera model based in New York, Mills said.
The model “targets poverty-stricken youth and their families and provides comprehensive, holistic services designed ultimately to prevent teen pregnancy,” she said. The second program is Teen Outreach Program or TOP. The TOP program runs for nine months a year at New Britain High School.
“The TOP program is designed to prevent risky behavior by helping [teens] to develop healthy behavior, life skills and a sense of purpose,” Mills explained.
Mills discussed the impact that the partnership with Planned Parenthood and the Hospital of Central Connecticut has had on stemming teen pregnancy.
“Both Planned Parenthood and the HOCC provide a place for teens to go from . . . basic healthcare and screenings to obtaining contraception,” Mills said. “Many teens do not feel comfortable or cannot talk to their parents about these issues, and both PP and HOCC provide a place where teens can go for help.”
Pathways/Senderos has a mission to eliminate teen pregnancy by addressing its root causes, assuring high school graduation, promoting adult self-sufficiency and providing support.
Among the reasons why teens become pregnant are family violence and sexual abuse, failing in school, and living in poverty, according to Pathways’ website.
The birth rates for teen moms in New Haven, Bridgeport, Hartford, New Britain, Waterbury, New London and Windham between 2006 and 2010 were at least twice the statewide average, the Register reported.
According to WFSB-TV, New Britain has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the state. Statistics provided by New Britain High School to WFSB last year show there were 31 pregnant teenagers, with two of them having their second child. In 2010, 42 girls were pregnant at New Britain High.
Bella Kimber, 16, a student at New Britain High, said many teens are pregnant at her school or are already mothers.
“It’s like something everyone is happy about,” she said. Imitating the reaction in a cheery voice, she added, “It’s like, hey, I’m pregnant!”
Kimber said that while some teens can make good parents, more programs are needed to encourage teens to delay pregnancy.
“How can you take care of a baby if you can’t take care of yourself?” Kimber said.
Precious Hines is a student at Achievement First Amistad High School, New Haven.