Teen birth rate in Milwaukee hits historic low

In 2015, it was 18 per 1,000 15-to-17-year-olds
Posted at 5:37 PM, Oct 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-28 20:22:23-04
Milwaukee's teen birth rate hit a historic low in 2015. It's a charge led by the City of Milwaukee and The United Way of Milwaukee and Waukesha County, which they said has more than halved the teen birth rate since 2006. 

The baseline in 2006 was 52 teens for every 1,000 15-to-17-year-olds. In 2015, it was 18 per 1,000 15-to-17-year-olds.

“We have made incredible progress in reducing the teen birth rate,” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said. “We should be proud of what this means for the future of our young residents and for our city as a whole. But we cannot become complacent. To reduce these rates even further, we must continue to work as hard as ever to give each teen the opportunity for a healthy future.”

Betsey Brenner, the co-chair for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Oversight Committee at United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County, said the programs they've instituted gives teens the power to make positive choices, allowing them to grow into productive members of the community.

One group work making a difference for teen women is Pearls for Teen Girls. They successfully prevented 99 percent of the young women they worked with from becoming pregnant. They said the key is goal setting and support.

"I wasn't too sure of myself, but once I got into the group I started to feel more sure of myself," said Zakia Wells, a Mount Mary University student who works at the group.

Wells said she's glad young women like her, who haven't had the support they may need at home, can turn to Pearls for Teen Girls.

"Here's your choice, we can help you do this, we are actually going to help support you through this entire journey," she said. 

The Executive Director, Gerry Howze, said they're working to break the cycle of poverty, homelessness and helplessness for young women.

But, one number in the 2015 results shows there's still work to be done. The number of young women under 15 who had babies increased in 2015. 

"You can never, ever, ever rest when it comes to this issue. Every year you've got a new group of young ladies who are able to have babies and we have to have that message reach them," Barrett said.

Barrett and Brenner said Milwaukee Public Schools has done great work in helping educate not just young women, but young men as well.

The next goal for the city is to cut the birth rate in half once more by 2023.