Friday, February 24, 2012

My Talk with Teen Girls

It is a good time to be a teen girl in Montgomery County. Nearly 91 percent of girls finish high school and about 989 of every 1,000 girls avoid pregnancy. That doesn’t mean girls don’t face real challenges though. Thanks to the Talk With a Teen Girl Today forum put on by Crittenton Services this week, we now have clearer insight into the real lives of girls who live in our community. I was proud to serve on the discussion panel with Crittenton participants and board members.

Right here in Montgomery County, 39 percent of girls (ages 2 to 18) were overweight or obese in 2011. Given that, it does not come as a surprise that a peer survey conducted by Crittenton participants identified eating healthy at school as their top concern. According to the teen panelists, schools do serve fresh fruits and vegetables, but there is competition to get them. They reported reaching the front of the lunch line only to find all of the healthy foods already had been taken. Incidentally, the girls insisted on serving only healthy snacks at the evening’s event.

The panel also identified fights among young people as an important issue. I was shocked to learn that juvenile arrests for girls (ages 11 to 19) in Montgomery County tripled from 2008 to 2011. Dating violence and sexual stereotyping also made the list of concerns. Nationally, almost 1 in 10 adolescents report verbal, physical, emotional or sexual abuse from a dating partner each year.

While the vast majority of teen girls do not get pregnant before finishing high school, teen pregnancy remains a top issue among them. The statistics are not the same for all County girls, though. In fact, the birth rate for girls (ages 15-17) was 40 per 1,000 for Latinas; 15 per 1,000 for African-American girls; and 11 per 1,000 for white girls from 2007 to 1010.

Congratulations to panelists Dajane Barrett, Jennifer Blanco, Yuvi Hurtado, Eboni Johnson, and Edinam Kumazah as well as the other Crittenton participants who created the peer survey, analyzed the results and shared their insights with us. Representatives from several Montgomery County departments and agencies, Montgomery County Public Schools, non-profit organizations and the media all showed up to listen. I thank the girls for giving us a meaningful look into their lives.

And their biggest request of us? Talk with a teen girl today. To find out what you can do, visit Crittenton Services.

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