More state money sought to assist teenage parents

Candy Chan

More than 200 teens, some with strollers and toddlers, asked legislators for more money and support for teen parents, including programs designed to prevent teen pregnancy.

Advocates urged increasing prevention programs by $1 million over 2008. They also asked for a $100,000 increase in Teen Living Program, which they said is a critical issue in Massachusetts.

“A lot of kids have no place to live. They live in overcrowded shelters. They need affordable housing.” said Janice Walsh, the coordinator of the Quincy Mothers Program.

Sen. Thomas McGee, D-Lynn, said the proposal to raise funding faces an uncertain fate because of a looming $1.3 billion state budget gap. But he spoke in favor of continued support for the programs.

“It is tough. We have huge deficits but these programs should stand because it makes a difference for those young people,” he said. “Ten years ago, there were only 30 people standing in the staircase. Today, there are hundreds in the hall and a line of people outside. So, they recognize how important it is.”

One of the education programs is the Young GED Program, which creates a bridge to community colleges that helps teen parents to find jobs.

Darleni Guerrero from Boston, who gave birth to her son last year when she was 17, said the Young GED Program – which creates a bridge to community colleges that helps teen parents into the work force – made a difference for her.

“I really like it because they helped me get to where I want to be in the future,” Guerrero, who would like to get a degree, told the gathering.

The annual rally for teen parents follows on reports that show the rate of teen pregnancy is slowing in the state.

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy reported there were 22 birth per 1,000 teen girls aged 15 to 19 years old in Massachusetts in 2005. It ranked the third best nationally after New Hampshire and Vermont.

The Patriot Ledger