Center Aims To Break Cycle Of Teen Pregnancy

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Breaking the cycle of teen pregnancy and poverty was the focus Friday of center dedicated to changing lives in central Ohio.

A recent survey found that about 750,000 American teenagers got pregnant in 2006, an increase of 30,000 pregnancies from 2005, 10TV's Andrea Cambern reported.

It was the first increase in a decade and the Center for Healthy Families hopes to help change that.

SPECIAL SECTION: Female Focus

Allonah Handy is the mother of little Zuri. Handy had her son at age 16 and was among the 1,800 Franklin County teenagers who got pregnant last year, Cambern reported.

"It was very scary. I was so scared," Handy said. "I don't know how to take care of a baby. I don't know what I'm doing."

"My son's father, he was not ready for this. We were just sitting there on the back porch (thinking) 'What are we going to do now?'" Handy said.

Handy had the baby and moved in with her grandmother. Zuri goes to daycare while his mother goes to high school, Cambern reported.

At the Center for Healthy Families, Toshia Safford knows that teen pregnancy rates are rising, after a decade of declining numbers.

She said for young moms, the odds are against them.

"Three percent receive a college degree by the age of 30," Safford said.  "Sixty percent live in poverty. Then one in four will become pregnant again within 18 to 24 months."

To break the cycle, the Center for Healthy Families pairs girls like Handy with a mentor for two years, to help them find housing, doctors, childcare, and education, Cambern reported.

"A life coach that stays with them for two years to say 'This is next,'" Safford said. "Helping them to navigate the system."

The goal is to help them stand on their feet economically and socially.

Handy said it has provided her with clarity.

She used to dream of being a model.  But now she plans to go to college and become a dentist.

"I can't balance a son and a modeling career," Handy said. "It would take too much from him, and I want something stable, reliable."

In the last six months, the Center for Healthy Families has paired more than 100 teenagers with mentors, Cambern reported.

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