Center would care for students' babies

March 15, 1995|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Sun Staff Writer Contributing writer Heather Reese provided information for this article.

Before saying yes or no to a pilot day care center for the babies of high school students, the Carroll County Board of Education wants to wait a month to hear from the public.

The board could vote April 12 on whether to allow the committee working on the idea to continue. The evening portion of the meeting begins at 7 p.m. at Mount Airy Elementary School.

The proposed center would provide the girls with safe, convenient day care so they don't drop out of school, proponents say.

"We have 53 girls under 17 who are pregnant," said George Giese, director of the Youth Service Bureau in Carroll County. "Statistics say 73 percent of these girls won't finish high school. So we're talking about 40 girls not finishing high school.

"If we don't do this, what do we do?" Mr. Giese said.

Mr. Giese's bureau is in a coalition of independent social service agencies that is proposing the idea. The agencies would operate the day care center with fees paid by the girls' parents, state vouchers from students who qualify for them and money from grants.

But the coalition is asking the schools to provide the space, a double-classroom portable building to be placed next to Westminster High School. The cost of putting the portable there would be $125,000 and the school board has yet to hear whether the County Commissioners will approve the money.

The commissioners will meet with the school board tomorrow to discuss the capital project requests. So far, county budget officials have not recommended spending money for any capital projects, such as the day care center, that are not linked to growing enrollment.

But Mr. Giese said he is optimistic that the commissioners will consider spending the money for the portable classroom if the school board supports the plan.

The commissioners are cautious about committing money to it, however.

"The big issue on any project with the commissioners is funds," said Commissioner Donald I. Dell. "All of these projects are great ideas to help the citizens and young ladies with children. I am not opposed to helping out when we have the funding, but when the budget gets tight, the families need to come together and help each other."

Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown said the idea is a good one, but the county is short on money this year.

"There isn't enough money to do it, and I don't think that we should do things that we don't have the money to do," he said. "If we did have the money, I think the proposal should go on an issues list of good ideas and proposals."

Commissioner Richard T. Yates said he "was concerned that young ladies would be going over there and playing with the babies and think it was a good idea to have a baby. They [center proponents] indicated to me that wouldn't happen, but I don't know how you would keep that from happening."

Mr. Giese said no formal studies outline the effect of teen parent day care centers housed in schools, but anecdotal reports suggest they do not inspire other teens to get pregnant. He said the centers could discourage some teens from getting pregnant, and could discourage teen-age mothers from having more than one child.

The proposal, called "Raising Hopes," is still in the exploratory stage, but social service agencies working with schools pupil VTC services director Edwin Davis have developed some guidelines.

The center would provide support and child-rearing classes for the mothers and fathers, stressing sexual abstinence for unmarried students.

The initial plan was to provide transportation for any Carroll County student and her baby to the Westminster center. That could have cost up to $300,000 a year.

If the current plan is approved, students in the Westminster High School area would ride regular school buses, which could be fitted with infant car seats. Mothers from other high schools would have to provide their own transportation to attend Westminster High and bring their babies to the center. It would accept only children under age 2.

Proponents of the plan said the center is needed because the county has a shortage of day care facilities.

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