Clinton promotes second-chance homes for teen parents

LOS ANGELES - President Clinton ordered the government Saturday to cooperate with nonprofit groups, church organizations and others to give teen-age parents safe, supportive ''second-chance homes.''

The homes help teen mothers who cannot live with their own parents. They teach teen mothers how to be good parents and give them reasons not to become pregnant again. Some also bring teen fathers into the equation by teaching them how to be parents or training them for a job.

Vice President Al Gore and Sen. Joe Lieberman support such homes, Clinton said in his weekly radio address. Gore and Lieberman will be nominated next week as the Democratic presidential and vice presidential candidates.

''The teens get the help they need to finish school. They learn how to care for their children and manage a budget,'' Clinton said. The radio address was broadcast from Los Angeles, where Clinton is attending a weekend parties and fund-raisers in advance of his Monday night address to the Democratic convention.

Clinton urged Congress to provide $25 million to start more second-chance homes.

He also directed the secretaries of the Health and Human Services and Housing and Urban Development departments to make it easier for community and religious groups to acquire vacant or foreclosed property to accommodate more teen parents. The government, he said, would give communities a road map of federal and state resources they can use to set up more of the homes.

''I read of one young Massachusetts woman who got pregnant at 14 and soon was estranged from her family with no place to live,'' Clinton said. ''With the help of a second-chance home, she got back on her feet, trained at a community college and has left welfare to become a proud, working mother.''

Clinton hailed recent declines in the birth rate among American teen-agers but noted that girls and young women still have close to a half-million babies a year.

He cited a report this week by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that teen-agers are having babies at the lowest rate in at least 60 years. For every 1,000 girls aged 15 to 19, there were about 50 births last year, the lowest level since the statistic was first recorded six decades ago.

If the teen birth rate had remained at its 1991 peak, teen mothers would have given birth to 120,000 more babies this year, Clinton said.

Explaining the drop-off in teen births, analysts said the HIV virus and AIDS became mainstream enough in the 1990s to scare teen-agers, while awareness of other sexually transmitted diseases was at an all-time high. They said advertising campaigns, community awareness groups and even the experience of seeing friends have children encouraged teens to be more careful - or stop having sex entirely.


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