Keeping Teen Mothers in School

October 13, 1994

Creating an infant day-care center for school-age mothers at Westminster High School makes a great deal of sense. The Carroll County Board of Education should be commended for giving preliminary approval to the project. The daunting task is to find the money to open the center and to cover its operating costs.

For most teen-age mothers, the mistake of becoming pregnant is compounded by the mistake of dropping out of high school. Carroll County social and health workers estimate that about 73 percent of teen mothers drop out of school, compared to about 3 percent for Carroll's general high school population.

It is in the community's interest to reduce that dropout rate for teen mothers. Without a high school diploma, these young women will be at a terrible disadvantage for the rest of their lives. RTC They will have difficulty finding work. If they do, their lifetime earnings will be much less than their counterparts who graduated.

It isn't just the mothers who will suffer. Their children will be handicapped -- and not just economically. Numerous studies show a high correlation between children's performance in school and the education levels of their mothers. Generally, the mothers with more education -- even in single-parent households -- produce children with higher academic achievements than those without high school diplomas.

The cost of providing day care to the students will be considerable. Since most of the teen mothers have very young children -- under two years of age -- state day care regulations require one adult for every three children. In addition, the center will offer medical, nutritional and parenting advice for the young mothers.

While providing day care to teen mothers is new to Carroll, other Maryland localities have similar programs. In Baltimore, with one of the nation's highest teen-age pregnancy rates, the Laurence G. Paquin school has programs for pregnant teen-agers and new mothers. Last year, Baltimore County school officials opened a day-care center for 24 children at Kenwood High School in Essex.

Reducing the number of teen mothers dropping out of high school is in the community's interest. This program deserves the county's support and funding.

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