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Teen Moms Rewarded for Preventing Second Pregnancy

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HALIFAX COUNTY — Educators say that teen pregnancy is one of the biggest problems facing young people. It drains the health care system, scars children, and forces little girls to grow up too soon. But, some innovative ideas are helping to ease the problems in one of the state's most-rural areas.

Teachers in Halifax County and all over North Carolina say that they hear students talking about sex every day. The trouble is that much of what they're hearing is wrong. Norma Hedgepeth says that it's about kids wanting to grow up quickly.

Right now, 39 students are pregnant in Halifax County's two high schools. In an effort to lower that number, the health department is rewarding young mothers who agree to use birth control and take six months of parenting lessons.

If the teenager does not get pregnant again during that time, she gets written authorization from the local health department and brings it to the Chamber of Commerce. She can cash that in for a $25.00 gift certificate good at some 600 local businesses.

Coordinator Deborah Miller expects to see fewer pregnant teens when the numbers are tallied this June.

If the incentive works, health educators say that, compared with the cost of caring for a baby, the $25.00 price tag is a bargain.

The money to start the gift certificate program comes from a state grant. The county health director says similar programs have helped in other states.