By Melissa M. Scallan

The Sun Herald–November 27, 2010

Gulfport, Miss.–Charleena Rogers got pregnant in May 2009 but didn’t tell anyone until she visited her mother in California at Christmas that year, and her mother figured it out.

She had no prenatal care for the first seven months of her pregnancy.  Now 16, Rogers has a 9-month-old daughter.  She is trying to take care of her baby, keep up with her classes at Gautier High School and spend some time with her friends when she can.

“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life,” she said.

Thousands of teenagers in this state are grappling with the same issues as Rogers.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Mississippi’s teen birth rate is 66 per thousand teenagers, the highest in the nation. The national average is 42.

Experts here say many factors contribute to the state’s high birth rate, including poverty, culture and a one-dimensional sex-education program in schools.

It likely would take years for any solutions to bring that number down, but experts said teenagers need more information about birth control and more involvement by parents, schools and communities.

Connie Jo Williams is the director of the Early Beginnings program in the Pascagoula School District. Twice a month she meets with teens at Gautier and Pascagoula high schools who either are pregnant or have children. Williams tells the students about resources for diapers and formula and helps them deal with the issues associated with being a teen mother.

She said children need more information, at a younger age, to prevent the pregnancies.


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