Two weeks after the announcement that the Norplant contraceptive would be made available to teen-age girls in Baltimore City, a group of Baltimore County educators, business leaders and government officials unveiled plans to open a day care center for Kenwood High School students with children. The center will open next month at the Essex school and eventually serve as many as 12 children up to 2 1/2 years old.
Both the city and county stories should serve to remind us that it's not enough any more to register shock and sadness at "babies having babies," especially in the Baltimore area, a nationally recognized hotbed of teen pregnancy. The time is long past for something to be done about the problem.
At Kenwood, where more than 30 students give birth each year, the problem has taken on the status of a dubious distinction -- the highest pregnancy rate among Baltimore County schools. Perhaps not coincidentally, Kenwood has the highest dropout rate among county high schools, too. Nor is it happenstance that these particular social ills are found in Essex, one of the poorest communities in the county.
Essex is also one of the whitest county neighborhoods, with a 95 percent white population. What's more, about 97 percent of Kenwood students are white. So much for the ugly notion that problems such as teen-age pregnancy and the conditions giving rise to them are exclusive to minorities. As the Kenwood situation suggests, these troubles have more to do with socio-economic factors than with race.
Some of the causes of unwanted teen pregnancies -- in particular, a disadvantaged girl's desire for someone to love -- are probably beyond the healing talents of even the most well-intentioned agency. But the day care center at Kenwood High, which will include parenting courses in addition to regular medical check-ups for the babies, could be rated a success if it can not only tend to the students' children but also help prevent the quick second births common among teen-age mothers.
To qualify for the center, students must maintain an attendance record of 85 percent and never be in danger of failing a grade. Those are lenient standards and might need to be raised. Still, credit the Business Education Council of the county's Chamber of Commerce, the force behind the Kenwood program, for trying to address a predicament that has become all too widespread and deserves more than expressions of shock and sadness.