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Cycle of pregnancy hurts teens

Every year from 1985 to 1997, an average of 95 girls became mothers in Hernando County.

Once the children of those girls reach school age, they become 50 percent more likely to repeat a grade. If the children of those girls are themselves girls, they are 83 percent more likely to become mothers before their 18th birthday.

Some become mothers sooner.

"Ten babies were born in Hernando County (last year) to mothers age 15 and under," said Harriet Martin, a social worker with the county's public health unit.

Martin spoke Tuesday as part of the second annual Teen Pregnancy Prevention Awareness and Child Advocates Rally sponsored by the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Task Force.

Speakers at Tuesday's event, which was in the atrium of the Hernando County Government Center, included Hernando County schools Superintendent John Sanders and Roy Miller, executive director of Florida Children's Campaign.

"We really as a society are not paying attention to what our kids are doing after two o'clock," Sanders said, referring to statistics that point to after-school hours as the time teenagers are most likely to have sex.

In addition to discussing how to prevent teen pregnancy, guests at Tuesday's rally talked about how to ensure that the state meets the basic needs of children in disadvantaged homes.

Members of the task force also announced winners of a poster-making contest and honored Vertyle Moss, a resident who has adopted and cared for numerous children born to adolescent and drug-addicted mothers.

"I have a son who was given one year to live; he turned 6 in January. These are the children society has tossed away," Moss said. She brought eight of her 14 children, ranging in age from 3 to 13, with her.

Miller, the keynote speaker, emphasized the need for politicians to adopt child-friendly legislation.

"Too many babies get kissed on the campaign trail and get forgotten after the election," Miller said.

"We want to know who's for kids and who's just kidding before they are elected."

Members of the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Task Force work to educate the community about the rate of teenage pregnancy by providing abstinence programs for middle school students and by involving parents in those programs.

For information on the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Task Force, call the Hernando County Health Department at 754-4067, ext. 137.