National analysis shows public costs of teen pregnancy in MT

The private nonprofit National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy sent over a summary of its latest analysis, which includes Montana-specific numbers.

In Montana, the campaign counts exactly 25,789 births to teenage mothers between 1991 and 2010. That, the campaign notes, represents a 25 percent decline in teen birth rates.

Nevertheless, the “public sector costs” of unplanned teen pregnancies – the increased use of public health care, child welfare services and, rather generally, “among those children who have reached adolescence and young adulthood, increased rates of incarceration and lost tax revenue due to decreased earnings and spending” – is pegged at $26 million a year.

Nation-wide, the campaign says taxpayers spend $9.4 billion annually on costs associated with teen pregnancy.

The information and new analysis gives “a conservative estimate of public costs, based on the increased risk of consequences faced by teen mothers, fathers, and their children as compared to mothers having children in their early twenties, controlling for many other factors,” according to the campaign. The research effort was started by the University of Delaware’s Dr. Saul Hoffman in 2004. It was paid for in part through a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Click here for more information.

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Mountain Home moving into new building – with Missoula’s support

Mountain HomeThis past Wednesday Mountain Home Montana cut the ribbon on its brand-new building, cheered on by the community. The nonprofit provides a home – and much, much more – for young pregnant women and new moms between the ages of 16 and 24.

The ribbon-cutting comes after a spate of recent misfortune, however. Floods, crib recalls, mold discoveries – not encouraging stuff. But it was met with an outpouring of community support.

As outlined in today’s Missoulian editorial, Mountain Home Montana could use just a little bit more support to see it through this critical time. It would be just wonderful if it could close out its capital campaign – only $240,000 more to go! – well before its September goal.

If you can help, visit Mountain Home Montana’s website at or call 541-4663.

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Teen pregnancy, foster care, and Child and Family Services

Lately I’m seeing a lot of opinions in the Missoulian having to do with mom stuff. I don’t know if it’s just the month of May being the month that’s home to Mother’s Day or what, but I’m liking it.

I do know that May is Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month – and I know this thanks to a letter to the editor from the Montana Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition. That letter stated that “Each day in Montana, approximately three teens give birth” and went on to describe the challenges faces by these teen parents. It ended with a call to action: ” If parents, youth, schools, businesses, faith leaders and health care providers join together to address teen pregnancy, we can make a difference!”

Speaking of calls to action, the new documentary “From Place to Place,” produced by Missoula’s Matt Anderson, is already making huge waves – and it hasn’t even screened in Montana yet. The documentary follows the lives of two Missoula youth who age out of the foster care system – without a family.

These youth have become advocates for change; one spoke at a Montana child welfare conference earlier this month, and I understand they have spoken to other leaders in the national system as well. You can read Anderson’s guest column in the Missoulian here. And you can watch “From Place to Place” at its first Montana screening at the Wilma Theatre a week from today, on Thursday, June 2, at 7 p.m.

And finally, in her guest column last week, Child and Family Services Division administrator Shirley K. Brown also had some important information to share – including information about how you can help protect Montana’s abused and neglected children:

In Montana, 903 children were removed from their homes because of child abuse or neglect from July 1, 2009, through June 30, 2010. The type of abuse experienced by these children includes physical neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and medical neglect.

Montana’s children are our future – children need a safe, stable family environment. Each individual in Montana can protect children who are being abused or neglected by reporting suspected abuse or neglect. To report concerns about a child’s safety, call 1-866-820-5437 (1-866-820-KIDS). Another way to help is by learning more about becoming a licensed foster parent. To learn about becoming a foster parent, call 1-866-939-7837 (1-866-9FOSTER) or email

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Gala fundraiser reading for Aerie International is this Thursday!

If you aren’t familiar with Big Sky High School’s award-winning international literary arts magazine, Aerie International, you are missing out.

This Thursday brings an opportunity to correct that. The Dana Gallery in downtown Missoula is hosting the fourth annual gala fundraiser and reading for the student publication. The family-friendly event will feature art, poetry, music, world food and more.

For a taste, check out this photo by 18-year-old Carrie Klemencic of Lawrence, Kansas:

Carrie Klemencic_Within ReachSample

Amazing, right?

More talent of this caliber – and coming from all over the globe – will be on display while student editors read original work AND selections from the next issue of Aerie International, all while guest readers and advisory board members – writers Tami Haaland, Debra Magpie Earling, David Allan Cates, Robert Stubblefield, Caroline Patterson and Robert Lee – mill around.

The night kicks off at 5:30 p.m. with live jazz and international hors d’ouerves, and drop-ins are welcome throughout the evening.

Remember, this is a fundraiser, so a suggested donation of $25 per “family” is appreciated, “family being loosely defined as any group of adults with or without children, related or unrelated.

If you have other plans and can’t make it, you can still check out Aerie International through its website. Or, for $12, subscribe to the magazine by emailing a subscription request to

Here’s more information about the publication:

The students of Aerie are eligible for $100 prizes each year include the Patricia Goedicke Poetry Award, the James Welch Fiction Award, the Norman Maclean Nonfiction Award, the Rudy Autio Visual Arts Award, the Lee Nye Photography Award, the Richard Hugo Sense of Place Award, and the Chief Charlo Celebration of Culture Award.

Aerie International is the only magazine of its kind dedicated to high school students editing and publishing the work of their peers worldwide. Last year the student editors solicited and read more than 350 submissions from 13-19 year olds from England, Russia, Turkmenistan, Japan, Finland, Canada, and across the United States.

Since 1999, Big Sky High School’s two literary arts magazines have received or been nominated for the highest award rank in the National Council of Teacher’s of English Program to recognize excellence in sudent literary magazines seven times.

Last year both magazines received the highest award.

For still more information as well as other donation avenues, call Lorilee Evans-Lynn at Big Sky High School at 728-2401, or write to Aerie International, Big Sky High School, 3100 South Avenue W. Missoula, MT 59804.

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Congressional Art Competition open to Montana high schoolers

In a press release from Montana’s congressman, Denny Rehberg, high school students across the state are urged to submit original artwork for the annual Congressional Art Competition.

Winning entries will be displayed in the Cannon Tunnel at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., for a year alongside the winning artworks from other congressional district. One winner will be chosen from each district, which in Montana’s case encompasses the entire state.

In the release, Rehberg described the competition as “a great way for Montana’s young artists to be recognized and rewarded for their talents,” adding, “I believe Montana’s rural settings and friendly people lend itself to some of the warmest and most inspired entries in the art competition, and each year I look forward to viewing the artwork and showing my colleagues Montana’s talent.”

The first runner-up from Montana will be displayed in Rehberg’s D.C. office. A grand prize winner will also be selected to attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony and reception in D.C. this June.

Submissions are due by April 22. Rules, instructions and other entry information can be found on Rehberg’s U.S. House website.

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February is now Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month

“One in three adolescent girls in the United States is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds victimization rates for other types of violence affecting youth,” says the press release I just received from the Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.

The coalition’s announcement was made to commend Gov. Brian Schweitzer and Attorney General Steve Bullock for teaming up to proclaim February Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month in Montana.

Why raise awareness? Because in 2009, “9.6 percent of Montana teens self-reported that in the last 12 months being purposefully hurt, hit or slapped by their boyfriend or girlfriend” and because “research shows that teen dating violence can contribute to increased risk of substance abuse, unhealthy weight control behaviors, unintended pregnancy and suicidality.”

That’s the awareness part. The prevention part? Check out the work done being done by the coalition, which links individuals and organizations to coordinate education projects, policy changes and program development:

The coalition recently released a statewide prevention plan to prevent intimate partner and sexual violence. Two of the goals in the plan focus specifically on youth and promoting healthy relationships. According to Karen Lane, Prevention Program Manager, “Much of our focus is on teaching skills for creating mutual, respectful relationships and on supporting environments which promote them. Some youth may not know what a healthy relationship looks like, so we need to teach and model those skills. It’s not enough to say don’t abuse; we need to say do this instead.”

The phone number to call for more information is 406-443-7794.

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Mountain Home is one of several great resources for teen parents in Missoula

As the discussion about how best to ensure that pregnant teens and teenage parents meet their graduation requirements continues into the new year, I wanted to be sure to post these recent comments from the head of Mountain Home Montana, a resource and home for young moms in Missoula.

Gypsy Ray actually wrote this a while back but due to some technical glitches I haven’t been able to post it until now. Sorry about the delay, readers, but I’m sure you’ll agree these issues aren’t going away any time soon.

– MM

As a 17 year veteran in the field of social work, specializing in teenage pregnancy, I must say that the closure of the Young Family Program after 25 years was such a disappointment.

Missoula was ahead of the norm with a program like this and now we will behind the times without any childcare programs for parenting high school students. Although the Young Family Program was located at Sentinel High School, it actually served all Missoula County High School students.

Teen parents have so many barriers to completing high school that this is just another reason for teen parents to drop out of high school and get their GED.

Luckily, Missoula has other great programs to help teen parents, just none that provide the childcare and parenting component while teen parents remain in high school.

Teen parents can go to Willard Alternative High School, however there is no childcare available. The EvenStart Program at Dickinson Lifelong Learning Center provides a GED preparation program combined with a parenting program that provides some childcare. However, this is not a high school program, it is a GED program.

Other programs like Futures provide support your teen parents who are pursuing their education including advocacy, support group and case management.

Mountain Home provides housing and support for young mothers and children and require all residents to attend school, however, high school is rarely an option because of the childcare barrier. One of the recent graduates of Mountain Home actually graduated high school last June despite the closure of the Young Family Program, only because she had a reliable vehicle to drive her child to a private daycare and extended family who provided help and support.

In a community where Graduation Matters, I am surprised that Young Families are not a priority. This seems like an easy dropout prevention solution, but the same school system that created Graduation Matters also voted to close the Young Family Program.

Gypsy Ray is executive director of Mountain Home in Missoula.

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So far, not much news – and some good news – on resources for teenage parents in Missoula schools

I’m still waiting for a reply from Missoula County Public Schools itself, but so far the responses to my inquiries into what sort of teen parenting resources – as in, programs aimed at helping teen parents stay in school, with support, and graduate – are available in Missoula have not been promising. It appears (and I’ll happily correct this if it turns out to be otherwise) that once a high schooler has a baby, the best they can hope for in the way of help from the school is a referral to outside community resources.

The good news is that there is an array of such resources in the Missoula area. I already mentioned Mountain Home – but there are also programs to get teen parents find and afford child care during school and work hours, food assistance programs and academic assistance programs as well.

The Futures Program at WORD, for instance, is a valuable one that, last year, helped “98 moms, 72 dads and 140 little ones,” according to program director Naomi Thornton, who also told me that “about 70% of parents who enroll in the program are already dropped out of school so we do a lot to try to reconnect them to educational goals. We do take referrals from any of the schools as well with the goal of trying to keep parents from dropping out. Child care and transportation are big problems for those trying to stay in school.”

Seventy percent. Wow. It goes without saying that every teenager who has a baby to care for must graduate in order to give their babies the best possible life – and themselves a good shot at a successful future.

Thornton sent me a description of the Future Program that I found pretty illuminating. Hope you find it worth a moment of your time, too.

– MM

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What resources are available for teen parents in Missoula schools?

I was reading this article in today’s Daily Inter Lake about a class for young parents offered at alternative high schools in Kalispell, and it got me wondering what sorts of  resources are currently available for teen parents in Missoula’s high schools.

A while back there used to be a day care in a Missoula high school. It was called the Young Families Program, and it allowed teenage moms to take their babies to school with them and receive great care while they attended classes at Sentinel High School. Not only did the program act as a daycare for these infants, it also provided a meeting place for teenage parents to get together and talk about their experiences and share information about community resources. The employees who ran the program also helped these students connect with other forms of assistance – all with the goal of helping them stay in school and graduate.

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