Women's Centre has room for more pregnant teens

Alicia Dunkley

Sunday, January 17, 2010    

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MORE than half the number of adolescents who get pregnant each year do not access the services of the Women's Centre of Jamaica Foundation, according to executive director Beryl Weir.

The Foundation, which has seven centres islandwide, is aimed at supporting adolescents who drop out of school because of pregnancy without interrupting their education and reinstating them into the school system afterward.

But according Weir, while entry into the Women's Centre programme was not mandatory, there were concerns that a significant number of females were not benefiting, based on the country's birth records.

"Whilst we are proud of the achievements of the girls who come into the programme, we are also concerned about those who are not coming in," she said.

"There are about 3,000 (teens) that should be at the Women's Centre, but we are only getting about half of that. Entry is if they so desire, which is unfortunate because some of them could be better assisted," she told the Report Committee of Parliament last Thursday.

"In any given year there are approximately 1,500 girls in the programme islandwide. We know that we are not getting all of the girls who become pregnant and drop out of school because we use the statistics for teen births that we get from the Registrar General's Department," she said.

Weir said while the Foundation has had to close its centres in St Mary and Trelawny because of resource constraints, there was still capacity to cater to more pregnant mothers in the under 17 cohort to which the entity caters.

"On any given day, at any centre, you would not see the same girls because they have to attend the different clinics, so the kind of rotation that happens because of those clinics we could accommodate at least 2,000," she said.

According to the 2008 RGD statistics of birth, there were five mothers aged 12 who gave birth that year. It said 46 thirteen-year-olds, 172 14-year-olds , 411 15-year-olds and 868 16-year-olds became mothers. In addition 1,479 17-year-olds, 2,178 18-year-olds, 2,437 19-year-olds and 7,596 20 year olds gave birth.

The Programme for Adolescent Mothers began in 1978. Some of the services offered by the centre are:

* 'walk-in' counselling service for women and men;

* counselling for fathers and parents of teen mothers;

* skilled training for both males and females in the age group of 17 to 25;

* confidential counselling service for children of any age and group peer counselling sessions at the Kingston Counselling Clinic; and

* day-care facilities for babies of teen and working mothers, among others.

T o date, more than 35,000 teen mothers have been assisted by the centre.




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