Friday, April 28, 2017

Film Friday- Sarah’s Uncertain Path

by Nomad

Filmmakers Andrew Droz Palermo and his cousin Tracy Droz Tragos produced this 2014 vignette called Sarah’s Uncertain Path, documenting a low-income family in western Missouri.
We are introduced to Sarah, a pregnant Midwestern teen, who is struggling to beat the odds in a tragic family tradition.

The producers of this film explained:
“This is just the first chapter in many hard choices and challenges she will face in the coming years."
It was to be the first installment in a chronicle of teen mother's first five years.
Part Two of the series documents the problems Sarah faced when she is forced to choose between returning to 10th grade while looking after her now 6-month-old son, A.J.
Sarah is well on her way to becoming a sad statistic.

Gritty Reality

According to a 2016 report by National Conference for State Legislatures (NCSL), teen pregnancies in all 50 states have been in decline - across all racial and ethnic groups.
Yet teen pregnancy and birth rates for teens age 15 to 19 in the United States remain among the highest with comparable countries. Roughly one in four girls will be pregnant at least once before age 20. And about one in five teen moms will have a second child during her teen years. Significant disparities also persist across racial and ethnic lines, geographic regions, rural and urban areas and among age groups.

In November 2016, National Center for Health Statistics reported:
In urban counties with large populations, 18.9 teens per 1,000 females age 15 to 19 gave birth in 2015, far lower than in rural counties with populations of fewer than 50,000 people that reported a significantly higher 30.9 teen birth rate.
What could account for the disparity between pregnancy rates among teens in urban areas to teens in rural areas?

Ginny Ehrlich, chief officer for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, believes she knows the reason:
“Women may have health coverage by virtue of ACA, but that doesn’t mean they have access to health services.”
Access to health services for women means having access to contraception, access to reproductive education and pregnancy testing. 
This may be the only reasonable means to narrow the gap between rural and urban teen birth rates.

Where the Cycle Begins

There's no question that this situation also has a negative impact on the educational achievement for young women.
Teen pregnancy and parenting are significant contributors to high school drop-out rates among teen girls. Thirty percent of teenage girls who drop out of high school cite pregnancy or parenthood as a primary reason. This rate is even higher for Hispanic and African American teens, at 36 and 38 percent, respectively. Nationally, only about half of all teen mothers earn a high school diploma by age 22. And among those who have a baby before age 18, about 40 percent finish high school and less than two percent finish college by age 30.
This, in turn, affects the earning power throughout the life of the mother and will adversely affect the health and welfare of the children.  

According to the report, two-thirds of young unmarried mothers are poor. After the baby comes, they will probably remain poor and become dependent on government assistance. Around 25 percent go on welfare within three years of a child’s birth. 

You might ask what about the fathers? Shouldn't they be held responsible? It's not as easy a solution as that. 
Only around 20 percent of fathers of children born to teen mothers marry the mothers. Therefore, child support generally represents a vital income source for these single parent families, accounting for 23 percent of family income among families that receive it.
However, teen fathers may pay less than $800 a year in child support, compounding financial difficulties for the parent responsible for day to day care. Teen fathers are often poor themselves; research indicates that they are also less educated and experience earning losses of 10-15 percent annually.
As the saying goes, one can't get blood out of a stone.  

Sadly, the only solutions that the Republican legislatures have come up with are cutting government programs, including food stamps and reducing access to Planned Parenthood clinics. 

The Republican lawmakers in Missouri (where Sarah lives) have worked tirelessly to close down women's health clinics in that state. Only last year, they passed a budget that spent millions in state money to block Planned Parenthood from accessing federal funding.

Both of these red state "solutions" seem likely to make the problem even more desperate for young women like Sarah and A.J.