Resources available for pregnant teens
Attention was drawn to pregnancy, abortion and the rights of unborn children through the upset Roe versus wages and the passage of the Heartbeat Act in fifteen states. As lawmakers continue to determine what all of this means logistically and legally, Donna Barrett, Executive Director of the Habersham County Family Connection (HCFC), questions what it all means specifically for pregnant teens specifically in Northeast Georgia.
Corresponding Pew Research Center, the rate of teenage pregnancy in the United States has been declining since its peak in 1957. Today, 89% of teenage births are to unmarried mothers. Although the number of teenage pregnancies per 1,000 has declined significantly over the past decade, many teenage women become pregnant out of wedlock. Many of them have no family support once their condition is known.
Pew Research also found that “despite the rapid decline in teenage birth rates, inequalities persist across all major racial and ethnic groups.” For example, the birth rate for Hispanic and black teens is twice that of white teens and five times that of Asian and Pacific Islander people.
The decline in teenage pregnancy rates can help educate people about sex and birth control. Over 80% of American teens say they’ve protected themselves since having sex for the first time. Barrett says, “Despite all the advances made in reducing teenage pregnancies, teens are still having unprotected sex. Teenagers still get pregnant. Teenagers are still struggling to figure out what to do next, how to take care of themselves and their unborn children, and how to survive during these really harsh consequences they are facing.”
Resources for Teenage Moms
In her work for HCFC, Donna Barrett sees the needs of local pregnant teenagers first hand. Barrett, along with Melanie Allen and Campbell Wiedemeier of Healthy Families Northeast Georgia, leads the Teen Parents Support Group at Mountain Education Charter High School. Barrett explains that helping pregnant teens has become even more important to knowing what resources are available to them. “Pregnant teens need to know about medical resources, how to find food, diapers and formula, how to finish school, how to find a job and how to find childcare. It can be overwhelming for a teenager, especially one who is now on their own with the pregnancy.”
Unplanned pregnancies are scary, especially for teenagers. At the beginning of pregnancy, teenage mothers have more options, and these options can be explained through a variety of resources.
The district health department
Habersham County Health Department‘s Natasha Young encourages all pregnant teens to come to the Health Department first.
A pregnancy test will be carried out there. She explains, “If positive, the patient will receive proof of pregnancy and may apply for Medicaid for a suspected pregnancy. If the patient meets the eligibility requirements, coverage will become active the same day before leaving the clinic. The patient is then ready to schedule the first appointment for prenatal care and apply for WIC.” WIC, short for Women, Infants and Children, is a government program that provides low-income women and their children with nutritious food, nutrition education, and recommendations for health healthcare to help.
The government benefits as WIC and Medicaid Access is via an online administration portal. Health Department staff help teenage mothers apply for benefits. If the patient qualifies, these benefits become active the same day.
The health department also offers pregnancy counseling. Young emphasizes, “There are local midwifery providers and it is important to seek help early in pregnancy to hopefully prevent problems during pregnancy. And it’s important to think about future contraception. Various contraceptive methods are available at the health department.”
Appointments with the health department are recommended but not required. Call (706) 778-7158 to make an appointment. That Habersham County Health Department is located at 185 Scoggins Drive in Demorest and is open Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 8am to 5pm, Tuesday from 8am to 7pm and Friday from 8am to 12pm.
Lifeline Children’s Services is a national organization with local support. Mary Kemp, one of Georgia’s pregnancy counselors, suggests that pregnant teens call her or another pregnancy counselor first. Kemp can be reached at their direct phone number at (470) 869-1979. There is also a direct pregnancy hotline for mothers at (800) 875-5595 and information is available at www.planmyadoption.org.
Kemp becomes the pregnant mother’s attorney and guides her through the process. She says: “If they come forward, I will be a safe resource, not pushing them into a decision. As a pregnancy counselor, I would advise options and if they decide to create an adoption plan, they would guide the entire process. I would walk her through the whole process!”
Kemp says: “We are a licensed child placement agency and will help her with her decision making and can legally place the child with a family if she decides to adopt. We work very closely with attorneys to ensure our process is conducted ethically and legally.” Kemp emphasizes that considering adoption does not force a pregnant mother to make an immutable decision. She says: “A mother is allowed to change her mind at any point in her pregnancy. She may change her mind until the legal documents are signed (after the birth) and a statutory cooling-off period has expired. If she changes her mind, I would still be in touch with her to put her in touch with helpful parenting resources — so no, I wouldn’t pull away from the case immediately.”
Several other adoption agencies are available to pregnant mothers in Northeast Georgia, including:
- Northeast Georgia Counseling Center, 874 Washington Street, Clarkesville 30523 Telephone: (706) 778-0954
- Georgia Agape Adoption Agency Atlanta, 3904 Mercer University Drive #200, Atlanta 30341; Phone: (770) 452-9995
- Bethany Christian Services, 1 Huntington Road #806, Athens 30606; Phone: (706) 395-7035
Support group for pregnant teenagers and teenage mothers
Regardless of the first steps pregnant teenagers take, they need support throughout their pregnancy and beyond. The support group for young parents meets on Mountain Education Charter High School and can become an important support team as well as a place to find resources. Contact Melanie Allen at (678) 528-2071 for more information.
Allen is also the Executive Director of Healthy Families Northeast Georgia, which provides parenting support and educational support for new families. She can direct teenage mothers to other resources available in the community for support.