CHARLESTON - According to the most recent KIDS COUNT Data Book, one in seven teenaged girls in the state will give birth.
For decades the number of teen births was declining in West Virginia and the nation. Then in 2006, West Virginia's rates began to rise. The 2012 West Virginia KIDS COUNT Data Book focuses on the recent trend in the state's teen birth rate and outlines recommendations for addressing the issue including full implementation of the state's comprehensive sex education curriculum.
In 2010, West Virginia's teen birth rate was 45 per thousand teen girls. The national rate was 34 per thousand. With a rank of 40, West Virginia is among the 10 highest numbered states in the nation for teen births.
"One in seven teen girls in West Virginia will have a baby," said Margie Hale, executive director of KIDS COUNT. "This is alarming, because we know when teens get pregnant they are much more likely to drop out of school, live in poverty and have babies that are less healthy. It's up to all of us to work together to reverse the recent trend. One of the best ways we can do that is by fully implementing the state's comprehensive sex education curriculum, which uses evidence-based methods for reducing teen pregnancy."
The increase in teen births is particularly acute in eight southern and central West Virginia counties, according to KIDS COUNT.
McDowell County's rate is the highest at 95.76 per thousand teens. That rate is nearly seven times higher than Monongalia County, which has the state's lowest teen birth rate, and more than twice the state average of 45 per thousand in 2012. Ranked 48in the state is Logan County, at 62.83 per thousand; Mercer is 49th with 65.69 per thousand; Calhoun is 66.56; Fayette, is 68.32; Boone is 70.48; Clay is 71.20; Mingo is 79.45 and McDowell is 55th at 95.76 per thousand teens.
By the Numbers
Teen birth rates per 1,000:
* Wood County, 51.60
* Gilmer, 22.30
* Pleasants, 29.96
* Doddridge, 39.89
* Jackson, 41.90
* Ritchie, 43.52
* Wirt, 47.62
* Calhoun, 66.69
The age group looked at for the "teen" classification is 10-19 years.
According to KIDS COUNT, one in three girls cites pregnancy as her reason for dropping out of high school.
The poverty rate for kids born to teenage mothers who have never married and did not graduate from high school is 78 percent, compared to 9 percent of children born to married women over 20 who are high school graduates.
Children born to teen mothers are at higher risk of being born under weight and of dying within their first year of life. They are less likely to get the emotional and intellectual stimulation they need for healthy child development, according to KIDS COUNT.
Recommendations in the data book include implementing the state's comprehensive sex education curriculum; giving young people a credible vision of a positive future; helping parents succeed as sex educators; help adults provide good information about how to reduce risk-taking behaviors, and creating a community-wide action plan for teen pregnancy prevention.
Founded in 1990, KIDS COUNT provides information about the well-being of children and builds alliances to advocate for children's needs. The nonprofit organization puts out the annual KIDS COUNT Data Book, a county by county report of child well-being in the state.
To learn about KIDS COUNT, go to www.wvkidscount.org.