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By Abby Hamrick, Intern

The massive reduction in teen pregnancy rates, both nationally and in North Carolina, is a shining example of how evidence-based public policy and programs can improve the lives of children and families. Unfortunately, President Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services recently cut all funding for Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) programs. In North Carolina, five TPP grantees received notice that their funding will end on June 30, 2018 – two years before the planned wrap-up of these valuable pilot programs – depriving North Carolina’s youth of $9.3 million in funding for critical teen pregnancy prevention programs.

According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual Kids Count Data Book, North Carolina’s teen birth rate among girls ages 15-19 has reached a record low. From 2010 to 2015, North Carolina saw a 37 percent decrease in teen pregnancies, which is better than the national rate. Despite this impressive progress, the U.S. has one of the highest teen birth rates in the world, and cutting these funds would be detrimental to ensuring the teen birth rate continues to decrease.

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Reducing the teen pregnancy rate has many social and economic benefits, such as better outcomes for children and youth, taxpayer savings, and improvement of family life.

By preventing teen pregnancy we are making a direct investment into the betterment of the lives of kids and families. When teen girls have the opportunity to graduate from high school before having their first child, studies show that their increased educational attainment plays a direct role in increased future income. Simply by merit of having more financial stability, babies are born with fewer risk factors and a higher quality of life.

The specific counties that will be affected by this cut are Bertie, Cabarrus, Cumberland, Edgecombe, Franklin, Graham, Granville, Halifax, Iredell, Nash, Northampton, Onslow, Richmond, Vance, Warren, Wilson. Federal investment into these counties, most of which NC labels as tier 1 (most distressed), allows students and families access to TPP programs that might not otherwise be available.

In addition to critical social benefits for children and families, reducing teen pregnancy has important fiscal implications. The Brookings Institute released a policy brief that outlined taxpayer savings for every dollar that was invested in teen pregnancy prevention, and the result is incredible. For every dollar we invest in TPP, taxpayers can expect to see a savings of $3-$6 on Medicaid and other maternal and child entitlement subsidies. If the President would authorize the remaining $202 million in spending to finish the grant, taxpayers would see, over time, a savings of up to $1.2 billion. According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, “teen childbearing in the United States cost taxpayers (federal, state, and local) at least $9.4 billion in 2010…Most of the costs of teen childbearing are associated with negative consequences for the children of teen mothers, including increased costs for health care, foster care, incarceration, and lost tax revenue.

If preserved, these programs would have saved taxpayers money as a result of better health outcomes for children, youth, and families. In the end, the decision to cut TPP programs is a short sighted decision that will have a negative impact on not only our children and youth, but our entire country. We hope President Trump will reconsider this decision and restore funding to promote healthy, mature families.

Abby Hamrick is an intern with NC Child.

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