No money to carry out teen pregnancy council's advice Mayor says its policy-making work is over.

March 30, 1992|By Sandy Banisky | Sandy Banisky,Staff Writer

Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's Advisory Council on Adolescent Pregnancy went out of business last week, with a small private luncheon at City Hall and thanks from the mayor.

But Mr. Schmoke acknowledged that most of the program the council recommended in a 77-page report will not be started for lack of money. His Advisory Council on Adolescent Pregnancy was disbanded, he added, because "its work is over."

"They developed the policy," he said. "We've moved now from policy development to the implementation phase."

He said that the implementation phase will not happen soon. "Implementation takes money," he said. "It does not help when you have budget cuts."

At last week's luncheon, Mr. Schmoke congratulated council members, saying, "We think that progress has been made. To make even modest progress in this area is a real tribute."

But progress is hard to detect -- and seems to depend on how various

numbers are interpreted.

Despite the work of the mayor's council and other government and private groups with the same mission, birth rates for adolescent girls continue to climb.

Between 1980 and 1990, the birth rate rose precipitously among teen-age girls in Baltimore, state health department statistics show.

In 1980, there were 59.7 births for every 1,000 girls of ages 15 to 17 in the city. In 1990, that number had risen to 96.6. Among girls 10 to 14, there were 3.8 births for every 1,000 girls in 1980. In 1990, the birth rate had reached 5.7 per 1,000.

Mr. Schmoke, however, said he believes the rates, though they continue to rise, are not climbing so quickly. That, he said, is progress.

And he cited a different statistic. He noted that there has been "a modest decline" in births to teen-agers over those 10 years. He called that "a hopeful sign."

But state statisticians say that the drop in the number of births occurred simply because Baltimore, with its shrinking population, is home to fewer teen-agers now than in 1980.

"I'm just saying there are signs of progress," Mr. Schmoke said.

The Mayor's Advisory Council on Adolescent Pregnancy was created in June 1988. Its report, completed 15 months ago, is meant to be an "action plan" for reducing the rate of births to city teen-agers.

The group came up with 28 recommendations, but the report highlighted five meant to reach girls, boys, dropouts, students and adolescents who were sexually active as well as those who were not.

The recommendations include strengthening school health studies in an effort to promote sexual abstinence and mentoring programs to help adults increase children's self-esteem.

But 15 months later, Mayor Schmoke acknowledged that only parts of the five are in place -- some in schools, some in volunteer programs, some in clinics.

At the Abell Foundation, Deirdre Smith, who monitors issues such as adolescent pregnancy, said "small-scale initiatives" are not enough. City Hall must adopt "a citywide strategy" for handling the problem.

Rita Kerrick, director of the Office of Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention and Coordination in the Baltimore Health Department, said her office's biggest contribution has been "creating a network" with groups involved in the issue.

Ms. Kerrick said that a shortage of money, as well as a reorganization of the public schools administration, has slowed the city's work.

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