BRADENTON — Manatee County’s Children’s Services Advisory Board has targeted teen pregnancy prevention as a major priority and is asking its program providers to craft a plan of attack.
On Wednesday, the board approved a request for information that will be sent to social service organizations this week. The providers will be asked to solicit plans for teen pregnancy programs.
The responses might be used to create proposals for a countywide project, said Mike Neuges, the county’s children’s services coordinator.
As the board learned during an August work session with county commissioners, Manatee County’s teen pregnancy rate is much higher than the state average.
In 2008, there were 190 girls ages 15 to 17 who gave birth in Manatee County, placing the county’s teen birth rate at 35 per 1,000 girls, compared to the state rate of 22 per 1,000. Manatee also had a repeat teen birth rate of 11.4 per 1,000 girls, compared to 9.5 for the state.
“It’s definitely eye-opening as far as realizing the extent of the problem,” Neuges said. “Teen pregnancy has always been an issue that has a lot of underlying issues. It has a dramatic cost on society, as well as human beings.”
The county funds five separate teen pregnancy prevention programs, ranging from abstinence-based offerings from the Boys & Girls Clubs and Care Net to comprehensive programs from Educational Consultants Consortium, Just for Girls and PACE Center for Girls.
Neuges said the county hopes a new, coordinated effort among providers will “target males and females, target the ZIP codes that have the highest teen pregnancy rates.”
For the past 12 years, the ZIP codes 34208, 34221, 34205, 34203 and 34207 — which cover most of Bradenton and all of Palmetto — have had the highest teen pregnancy rates in Manatee.
Also on Wednesday, the board approved the appointment of a new chair, Kimberly Kutch, who represents the Department of Children and Families. The board hopes to fill two vacancies at the next county commissioners meeting Dec. 1. Neuges said he has received seven applications for the two positions. The deadline was Wednesday.