If we can agree on anything, you’d think we could agree on the importance of caring for babies.
Babies cannot be blamed for creating their own problems.
“You made your bed” just doesn’t work with babies. They don’t make beds.
So we agree with Bob Henke, supervisor of Argyle and chairman of the Washington County Board of Supervisors, who pointed to the county’s 50-plus teen pregnancies each year and said the state has to do better than providing Community Maternity Services with enough funding to help only 12 pregnant teens in the county each year.
These teens need a lot of help. By definition, teen mothers are too young to shoulder the responsibilities of parenting by themselves.
It’s not that a 16- or 17-year-old can’t physically handle the experience. We are aware that women that age have been having babies for millennia. But it’s very difficult for a teenager to do a good job caring for and raising her child, especially if she’s doing it alone and especially if she’s trying to finish high school, too.
We want these babies to thrive, not just survive. We want them to grow up into healthy adults. We want them to finish school, get jobs, have satisfying careers and raise healthy children of their own.
We want all that for moral reasons — it’s much better, in a moral sense, to help people have healthy and fulfilling lives then lives of deprivation and suffering.
But we also want all that for practical reasons — it’s much less expensive for everyone when babies grow up into adults who can take care of themselves. We all benefit when kids are raised in a way that leads them to contribute to society as adults, instead of depending on it.
The first few years of life are the most crucial when you’re trying to make a difference in a person’s development. That is when the most growth occurs. That is when intervention can still make a profound difference, changing the trajectory of a life.
Intervention with teen mothers should start with prenatal care and attention, so teen mothers get into the habit of taking care of their babies even before they’re born.
The high teen pregnancy rate in Washington County is a crisis that demands action, said Community Maternity program director Sue Hughes.
Washington County has a teen pregnancy rate higher than the state average and higher than neighboring Warren County, but all it has at Community Maternity Services is one part-time worker. The agency has suffered several state funding cuts in recent years.
It’s so easy — and unproductive — to put the onus elsewhere: The mother never should have gotten pregnant; her family should step up to care for the child.
It doesn’t matter how true these statements may be. We all know that teens sometimes get pregnant and that families are not always supportive, or even present.
What is sensible is to think of the future: Where do we want this child to be in 25 years? What is best — not only for the child and the mother, but for us?
The brightest future is one in which that child is able to support herself, and the best way to get there is by ensuring she is raised in a stable, healthful environment. It’s not a lot to ask, and there shouldn’t be much opposition to it. Our babies should be cared for.