Birth rates for teen mothers are dropping in Nevada, according to the latest statistics released in September by the Center for Disease Control's National Center for Health Statistics.
Among every 1,000 females ages 15-19, 53 in Nevada gave birth in 2003, when the most recent data was available from the center. That's a 29 percent drop from 1991, the peak birth year among pregnant teenagers across the United States, when there were 74.5 births per 1,000 females in Nevada.
Since 1991, every state and territory has dropped in its teen birth rates, with the nationwide decrease at 33 percent, according to the center for health.
The reason could be better education. About 15 years ago at Carson High School, administrators changed health from a requirement for seniors to a requirement for freshmen. All ninth-graders now take a semester of health.
"I do remember we changed it because we said, 'My God, all of the family life units are needed at an earlier age,'" said Principal Fred Perdomo. "That may have had an effect. I hope so."
Carson High administrators do not track the number of pregnant teens or teen mothers at its school, but Pioneer High School, the district's alternative education high school, does. As of the 2005-06 year, there are 14 pregnant teens attending Pioneer, out of an enrollment of 96 females, or 14.5 percent. There is one teen dad.
According to Principal Mark Van Voorst, the teen mom program at Pioneer is based on the New Horizon program started 15 years ago. It was the concept of Ruth Aberasturi, former director of student support services for the Carson City School District, who used grant money to get it off the ground.
"I can say that Pioneer is very effective in helping (students) to graduate from high school," said Van Voorst. "So that when they enter the work force, they have at the minimum a good education and a high school diploma."
Pioneer has a nursery for infants and young children while their parent or parents attend classes. Pregnant teens and teen moms at Pioneer spend at least one period in the nursery learning child-rearing skills.
Because of accelerated coursework, Pioneer students can graduate sooner than if they remain at Carson High. Students get out of school earlier each day, and can work to support their families. Requirements to graduate are the same as those for students at Carson High.
"We use the same basic curriculum maps, the same books," said Van Voorst.
In November, interns from the Orvis School of Nursing at the University of Nevada, Reno will start teaching Pioneer students about preventing pregnancy. They will also discuss skills needed to care for an infant, such as changing diapers and what to do when a baby is sick.
Teens who become pregnant at Carson High can stay there if they wish. Transferring to Pioneer is voluntary, and students must apply for admission. Students can return to Carson High at any time.
"There's nothing that says (a pregnant mom) has to come here," said Van Voorst. "We just provide them a lot of opportunities they wouldn't get at any other school."
While there are several early-childhood courses at Carson High that mothers and pregnant teens can take, there is no nursery.
"We don't have the early-childhood development and parent things where (a student) could leave their child," Perdomo said. "We've talked about it, but a lot of it is space. If we could find space available, we could offer something. A lot of it, too, is staff. It all depends on how many teachers we have."
- Contact reporter Maggie O'Neill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1219.
By The Numbers
• Fifty-three of every 1,000 females in Nevada ages 15-19 in 2003 gave birth, which is above the national average of 41.6 births in the same group. In 1991, the peak year for births among teen moms, the national average was 61.8 births among 1,000 females ages 15-19.
• Ten locations had higher birth rates per 1,000 females ages 15-19 in 2003 than Nevada, including Texas at 62.9., New Mexico at 62.7, Mississippi at 62.5, Arizona at 61.1, Washington, D.C., at 60.3, Arkansas at 59, Louisiana at 56, Oklahoma at 55.9, and Georgia and Tennessee, both at 53.5.
• States with the fewest births per 1,000 females ages 15-19 in 2003 were New Hampshire at 18.2, Vermont at 18.9, Massachusetts at 23, Connecticut at 24.8, Maine at 24.9, New Jersey at 25.5, and Minnesota at 26.6.
• According to the National Center for Health Statistics, birth rates for teen moms are at an historic low. The peak has dropped a third since 1991. Statistics for 2004 will be available in September.