Could the current teen pregnancy phenomenon in Green Bay and (to a lesser extent) Brown County actually be the biggest problem of all in our area? Maybe, maybe not, but it doesn’t take long to make a case for putting it right up there with homelessness, minority achievement gaps, dropout rates and early childhood concerns…all of which seem to get much more attention.
When you look at the numbers—actual pregnancies and the related implications—the toll is staggering and there is no seemingly effective community/county scale response strategy in sight. Here is some of what we know about teen parents, according to a report prepared by the Brown County Adolescent Parenting Coalition and the Brown County Health Department, using the most recent (2004) data available at the time:
-65% of teen moms have been sexually assaulted as children
-80% have grown up in poverty
-70% will not have a high school diploma by age 30
-the sons of teen moms are 13% more likely to land in prison
-daughters of teen moms are 22% more likely to become teen mothers themselves
In the event you needed another statistic to reach total nausea, a slide from the Brown County Provider Summit #5 on June 6th of this year suggests that 50-75% of the fathers are adults…often 10 years older than the teen female mothers.
Data from 2004 shows that 262 Brown County teens (30.7 of every 1,000 female teenagers) gave birth that year—only three other counties in our entire state (Milwaukee, Dane and Racine) had higher rates—and statistics for the City of Green Bay proper (56.0 of every 1,000 female teenagers) indicate the problem was almost twice as bad in town that same year. For perspective, the City of Madison had a rate of 25.5 per 1,000 female teenagers in that same year. Some estimates suggest the cost of teen childbearing to taxpayers in Wisconsin in 2004 was $156 million. Huh.
More recent numbers from a Green Bay Press Gazette article ‘Brown County teen pregnancies on rise’ suggests these troubling trends in the City of Green Bay and in Brown County are continuing. Is the noise level—and investment in root causes—keeping pace? That sound you don’t hear is ruining lives and costing us a fortune…