Although still near the bottom, Mississippi is definitely making progress when it comes to teenage pregnancy rates. Figures show that the teen pregnancy rate in Mississippi is now not only lower than the national average, but also has experienced a steady decline over the last ten years.
The latest figures for the year 2002 show that roughly 73 out of every 1,000 15 to 19-year-olds gets pregnant each year in Mississippi. That's compared to almost 93 per 1,000 in 1992.
Heather Hicks is a teen pregnancy specialist for Lauderdale County Schools. She says teenage pregnancy rates in Lauderdale County schools are also down.
"From the year 2002, it was like 20 or a little more and that has gone down in last year 2003 and this year it's picked up a little bit but not nearly where it was in 2002," said Hicks.
Hicks says she agrees with officials on the state level who say that a growing sense among students about the importance of education is leading to some of the decline.
"A lot of them say that you can't get a job now without your high school diploma," said Hicks.
It is this thinking which she says is now also pushing many teens who are pregnant to stay in school or work to receive a General Equivalency Diploma or GED.
However, with the often high costs of child care she says this not easy for teen moms. That's why she says it's important for programs to exist such as the one in Lauderdale County Schools which provides free child care for students during regular school or GED class hours.
"The city schools don't participate in this and I don't know how many are pregnant in the city schools, but it's helped the county schools out a lot," Hicks said.
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