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House Budget Excludes Funding for Teen Parents

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RALEIGH — If some lawmakers have their way, 450 teenage mothers in North Carolina will no longer get help from the state. The House version of the budget does not include funding for the N.C. Adolescent Parenting Program.

The 14-year-old program serves teen mothers in 30 counties across the state. It's dual goal is to keep the girls in school and teach them to be good parents.

Lawmakers who cut funding for the program say they're not convinced it works, but a lot of young mothers say it does work and they have the diplomas to prove it.

Life is hard for a 17-year-old mother, especially when she has twins. But Cheneek Crawford has her high school diploma, has just joined the army and intends to go to college. She says the Johnston County Adolescent Parenting Program helped her get where she is.

"Before the babies, I already wanted to finish school and go to college," says Crawford. "When they came, I knew I had to finish school and go to college because of them."

Rep. Henry Aldridge (R-Pitt Co.) says he's not convinced the program is successful. As a result, the House cut $714,000 in funding for the program from the state budget.

"That ought to be a signal to all programs, get your act together, do what you're supposed to do or you will also face the same problem," says Aldridge.

Other lawmakers say the program should stay in the budget

"The participants in the program are three times less likely to get pregnant again," says Rep. Alma Adams (D-Guilford). "They are less likely to drop out of high school. They are more likely to be good parents."

Without the program, coordinators worry that teens such as Crawford won't get the help they need.

"Without that support, someone there believing in them, making sure they do their work, checking on their attendance, they may not be likely to continue in school," says

Money for the program has been diverted to water testing to research hazards like pfiesteria, but there is still a chance that the parenting program could be re-funded if the Senate negotiates with the House to put it back in the budget.