PRESIDENT CLINTON'S RADIO ADDRESS TO THE NATION: BUILDING ON OUR HISTORIC PROGRESS IN REDUCING TEEN BIRTHS
Today, in his weekly radio address, President Clinton will announce new steps to promote second chance homes for teen parents as a way of building on our dramatic success in reducing teen births. The President will highlight new data showing that teen birth rates have declined for eight years in a row and are now at a record low. Yet despite this historic progress, nearly half a million babies are born to teenagers each year - and about 100,000 are repeat births. To help more young people make responsible choices and delay parenting until they are financially and emotionally ready, the President will direct the Secretaries of Health and Human Services and Housing and Urban Development to help community- and faith-based organizations establish or expand second chance homes where teen parents can get the support they need. The President also will call on Congress to join with him in providing funding for second chance homes.
Making Historic Progress in Reducing Teen Births. This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released preliminary 1999 data confirming that we continue to make impressive strides in addressing one of the most important social problems facing our nation. The birth rate for 15 to 19 year olds dropped three percent last year and 20 percent from the most recent peak in 1991, and is now at the lowest level since tracking began 60 years ago. This has had a dramatic impact: if teen birth rates had remained at the 1991 level, 120,000 more babies would have been born to teen parents last year. These improvements are seen among younger and older teens, married and unmarried teens, all states, and all racial and ethnic groups. The sharpest decline last year was a six percent drop in the birth rate for American Indian teenagers. And, since 1991, the African American teen birth rate has decreased by 30 percent. At the same time, our latest data show that teen pregnancy and abortion rates are also continuing to fall.
Yet stronger efforts are needed, because teen parents and their children face tremendous challenges. Nearly 80 percent of single teen mothers end up on welfare and only one-third receive a high school diploma or GED, while their children are at greater risk of low birth weight, abuse and neglect. Down the line, their daughters are more likely to become teen moms themselves and their sons are more likely to become involved in the criminal justice system.
Taking Action to Create More Second Chance Homes. President Clinton has long supported second chance homes, an innovative approach to help teen parents who cannot live at home. These adult-supervised living arrangements offer parenting skills, job counseling, education and other referrals that help reduce repeat pregnancies and improve the prospects for young mothers and their children, and many also involve young fathers in parenting and employment activities. Early evidence shows that teen parents in second chance homes are less likely to have repeat pregnancies, and more likely to immunize their children, complete high school, and become self-sufficient. The welfare reform law, signed by the President in 1996, required unmarried minor parents to stay in school and live at home or in a supervised setting in order to receive benefits; and encouraged states to create supervised, supportive housing programs such as second chance homes.
To continue these efforts to promote responsibility and self-sufficiency among teen parents, the President will direct the Secretaries of HHS and HUD to work together to help communities open second chance homes. This Executive Memorandum will make it easier for community- and faith-based groups to access vacant or foreclosed property, provide a blueprint for communities on how to create second chance homes, and provide a roadmap to federal and state resources they can tap to get second chance homes up and running. This will help replicate this innovative model in more communities across America.
Implementing a Comprehensive Strategy for Reducing Teen Pregnancy. The Clinton-Gore Administration has supported a variety of innovative and promising teen pregnancy prevention strategies. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, a private nonprofit organization formed in response to the President's 1995 State of the Union challenge, has worked with all sectors of society to share promising strategies and send the right message to our teens.
This week, HHS transmitted to Congress the third annual report on the National Strategy to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, first announced by the President in 1997. This report highlights efforts to promote abstinence and personal responsibility, provide more teens with mentors and access to college or jobs, and develop local prevention strategies reaching out to both girls and boys. It also documents that at least a third of all communities now have HHS-funded teen pregnancy prevention activities -- exceeding the goal of 25 percent set in the 1996 welfare reform law -- and describes strong partnerships with states, communities, families, religious leaders, the media, and teens themselves that have contributed to the historic progress we have achieved.
Building on a Strong Record of Promoting Opportunity and Responsibility. Since taking office, the Clinton-Gore Administration has sent a clear message to young women and young men alike: don't get pregnant or father a child until you are ready to take on the responsibility of parenthood. At the same time, the President and Vice President have worked hard to provide positive alternatives for young people through education and training, community service, after-school opportunities, and record job growth. Today, fewer teens are becoming parents, teen unemployment is the lowest since 1969, millions of parents have moved from welfare to work and child support collections have reached a record of nearly $16 billion - double the collections in 1992.
To build on our progress in promoting responsibility and breaking the cycle of dependency, the President will urge Congress to work with him in a bipartisan manner to take action on key budget initiatives: providing $25 million for "second chance homes;" ensuring that more child support goes to families; and investing $255 million for the Fathers Work/Families Win initiative to help 40,000 low-income fathers and 40,000 low-income families work and support their children. Despite the clear bipartisan support for second chance homes, Congress has yet to provide any funding.
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