A new kind of oral contraception - talk -- could be the best method for keeping Carroll teens from getting pregnant, said the woman leading a state-funded program here.
"People think silence makes the problem go away. The opposite is what's true," said Cindy Fisher, hired this summer to launch IMPACT, or Intervention Means Parents and Kids Talking, run by the private, non-profit Human Services Programs Inc.
"Silence equals no information. How can we expect kids to make wise decisions without information?" Fisher said.
Her program stresses abstinence, but tries to give teens reasons why they shouldn't have sex, she said.
One reason is money. The program this year will pay special attention to teen males, reminding them that if they father a baby, they are financially responsible until that child turns 18.
Fisher will hang posters around the county warning boys and girls of the high cost of raising a child. Her favorite poster shows a chicken wearing high-top tennis shoes, and a caption that reads: "What do you call a guy who makes a baby and flies the coop?"
Fisher also will serve as a clearinghouse for information on teen pregnancy, so that anyone with questions on services or facts can call her.
She will pull together information for teens who already are pregnant, as well as encourage parents and schools to do what they can to prevent teens from getting pregnant.
On the prevention side, she will be available to speak to groups, but also can work with Scout leaders, teachers, community organizations and others who want to incorporate her videos and brochures into their own programs.
"The message itself is to wait, to say no (to sex). There are a lot of goals ahead of you to accomplish before you start a family," Fisher said.
Fisher's other message is that teen pregnancy is not just a problem for the family with a pregnant teen.
"Ultimately, it affects us all, because we bear the financial cost. And the cost is staggering," Fisher said.
Human Services will receive $100,000 in state grants over the next two years to administer IMPACT, including salaries for Fisher and a part-time person to be added next year, publicity and a computer.
Fisher said Carroll County public assistance programs could have saved $966,160 in 1987 alone if all the teens who got pregnant had waited until they were 20, based on a statewide study by the University of Baltimore.
The study said a total of $2.4 million in federal and state public assistance was spent in Carroll on families started with a teen birth. The services include Aid to Families with Dependent Children, food stamps, Medicaid, public housing and other social programs.
About 60 percent of that assistance would have been needed even if the teen had waited until after 20 to give birth, the study said. However, the remaining $966,160 is attributed just to births to teens.
For every 1,000 Carroll County women age 15 to 19, 25 gave birth to a child during 1986, the last year for which those figures are available from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Although Carroll's rates are lower than those for urban areas such as Baltimore City, which had 82 births per 1,000 teens, Fisher said the problem is still serious for teens who become pregnant.
"It's not just an urban, black problem. It's as much a rural, white problem," she said.