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Remarks by Marva Livingston Hammons

From 1991 to 1996, the teen pregnancy rate in Michigan fell 18.5 percent.  We have seen a decrease from 1500 minor grantee cases in 1992 to 179 in April of 1998.

Our strategy to reduce the number of out-of-wedlock births includes:

  • changing our own thinking about this issue, which fostered dramatic changes in our welfare policies.
  • participation in the Michigan Abstinence Partnership whose 140 members include business, health professionals, schools, religious institutions, community groups and citizens at large and
  • legislation which requires minor parents under age 18 to live in adult-supervised households in order to qualify for public assistance.
In Michigan, we are giving a consistent message that unwed teens do not need the extra burden of having to care for a child.

Under our state’s welfare reform initiative, To Strengthen Michigan Families, we have been requiring minor parents to live under adult supervision since October of 1992.

In 1995, the Michigan Legislature adopted a welfare reform statute which mandates that all minor parents under 18 must live in an adult-supervised household in order to qualify for public assistance.

For cases in which a parent, other relative or legal guardian has a history of physical or sexual abuse, or where there is drug abuse or domestic violence in the teen’s parental home, the teen must live in another adult-supervised living arrangement approved by the Family Independence Agency.

We make an exception if the teen is 17, in high school full time, and a move to an adult-supervised setting would require a change in schools.

In September of 1993, the Michigan Family Independence Agency began implementing the Teen Parent Program with 21 pilot sites in 18 of its 83 counties.

This program is designed to strengthen the capacity of teen parents to achieve self-sufficiency, to prevent a second pregnancy and to increase the teens’ ability to meet the developmental needs of their children.

An ongoing evaluation of the Teen parent Program began October first of 1994.  The first year evaluation included these specific findings:

  • 77.8 percent of teens without high school diplomas who were receiving self-sufficiency services were either involved in education programs upon entering the program or became involved in such within a year of program entry.
Overhead #1
  • 84.1 percent of participating teens who were not pregnant at time of intake did not become pregnant within one year of program entry.
Overhead #2
  • 97.4 percent of the teens who were pregnant at the time of program entry were participating in prenatal care at that time, decreasing the chances of low birth weight infants and increasing the chances of positive outcome live births.
  • 99.8 percent of the teen parents did not have a substantiated child abuse or neglect finding for one year from program entry.
  •  And 76.7 percent of teens 17 or under were residing in what would be considered acceptable living arrangements under the minor parent policy.
A survey of local office field staff released last month found that:
  • 78.2 percent of minor grantees with active Family Independence Program cases were 17 years of age. 
  • 83.5 percent of the minor grantees lived with an adult relative, unrelated adult, or in a supervised setting at the time of application and 9.8 percent lived independently. 
  • 4.5 percent of the minor grantees had a high school diploma, 78.2 percent were attending school, and 12.8 percent were attending school working.
Overhead #3

This chart indicates the declining rates of teen pregnancy per 1,000 of the 15 to 19 year-old Michigan population from 1984 to 1996.

Overhead #4

Here are the actual rates per 1,000.

Our serious concerns about the mixed messages on sexual behavior which confront our teens prompted us to participate in the Michigan Abstinence Partnership since its inception in 1993.

The partnership seeks to improve the health of Michigan’s children between the ages of nine and fourteen by encouraging abstinence from risky behaviors, including sexual activity.

Michigan Abstinence Partnership promotional materials send the same message the New York City Board of Education uses on posters warning against teen pregnancy: “It’s like being grounded for 18 years.”

The partnership has developed a number of educational materials including information on how to communicate with children about sexual abstinence, community training workbooks, an action primer and a resource bibliography.

Michigan supports the partnership with a combination of tobacco tax dollars and fundraising efforts targeting corporations, foundations and citizens.

Michigan is also conducting a program targeting state and local law enforcement officials, the education system, counseling services, parents, teens and young males for education and training on statutory rape.  This expands the scope of our teen pregnancy prevention programs to include men.

The program’s goal is to reduce the number of out-of-wedlock births resulting from underage “consent,” or force, or coercion, 20 percent by the Year 2000.

The English writer Dora Russell wrote:  “We want far better reasons for having children than not knowing how to prevent them.”

We believe our early welfare reform efforts have contributed to the decline we have seen in unwed teen pregnancies during the 1990’s.  Our efforts are entirely consistent with the federal Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996 which requires states to take actions designed to reduce the number of out-of-wedlock births, particularly those that are the result of teen pregnancies.

Thank you.


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