Baby Blues

Christina M. Castro
6/19/12

Along with many youth across this great nation, my beautiful young cousin just graduated from high school. She celebrates a great accomplishment that only a little over half of Native Americans achieve. Definitely cause for celebration. She is also several months pregnant.

My initial reaction upon finding out was shock, followed by a deep, dark sadness. I grieved for the stolen youth and opportunities. I grieved for the loss of spark in her eyes when I saw her at her reception, which the family went about having with no “daddy” in sight. Only the very discerning eye would have noticed her slightly bulging belly.

I’m not sure if anyone in our health services department keeps tabs on how many teen pregnancies we have on my pueblo annually, all I know is that out of last year’s graduating class at her small, tribal charter school, 6 of the 7 girls have children now. She is, quite simply, the next in the succession of breeders building the bricks of the adobe wall that is our community; a community that reveres Indian babies seemingly more than anything in the world.

For us Natives, teen pregnancy is far from unusual and miles from uncommon. Thereby, I came to the realization that I couldn’t be truly shocked. Statistically speaking, it was bound to happen. Honestly, I had a feeling it would happen. But does that make it ok? And that being said, why did I not say anything to her about it?

Let me make one thing clear. Her parents are not old and out of touch. They are not poor or abusive. They are a fun loving couple who have been together for years, ride a Harley and seem to be genuinely in love with one another. She’s very close to her older sister who is also married with children. Which leads me to wonder if they ever talked to her about about sex and healthy relationships? Was there ever a discussion about birth control? Was abortion an option?

For most Natives I know, abortion is another taboo. Very rarely is it discussed openly. I’ve been told we as Natives don’t believe in abortion, but is that entirely true? I have a strong feeling if anyone knew how to “do away” with an unwanted pregnancy before the current medical procedure came about, it was Indian women. Furthermore, do we vigilantly oppose abortion yet embrace the fact that tons of our young girls are bringing Native babies into the world with absolutely no skill set, resources, or fathers? I don’t know about you but I have seen some messed up, horribly incompetent young Indian parents. I don’t need the nitty gritty stats of teen pregnancy to know it blows.

I too was once a teenager in my cousin’s shoes. It’s hard for me to admit it openly, but it’s true. No one in my family told me abortion was taboo because no one ever talked about sex. My mom, also a teenage mother, perpetuated the cycle by choosing to remain silent when she knew I was sexually active. The only thing she ever said to me was, “Don’t get pregnant!” As emphatic as it sounded, it obviously did little to dissuade me from having sex. Luckily, I lived in the city and my boyfriend at the time knew how to get me into the “system” for what was essentially a free abortion. How did he know? Because he had got his girlfriend before me pregnant too.

If you want me to say I feel guilty about it, I don’t. I had plans, dreams. I wanted to go to a good college and get out of the 'hood. I knew there was something bigger out there for me and I knew it wasn’t going to happen if I had a kid attached to my hip. I also knew at that ripe young age, that I didn’t want to be another minority statistic. And here I am, so many years later, several degrees later, still without biological children, finally, finally, feeling like I might be ready to give a child a life that it surely deserves.

Let me share with you a startling observation I made recently. A student at my college, who I am friends with on Facebook posted a picture of a box of disposable ovulation tests that had been found in the commons area of the dorms. There were several comments about how gross and crazy the whole sight was. I seriously didn’t get it. What exactly was revolting about it? I mean, I’m assuming they weren’t used. Maybe it was the fact that they were found in the commons but still, is it that gross? Is being proactive about your fertility that crazy?

These aren’t children. This is college. A tribal college, filled with dorms and young men and women having lots of sex. At least one of those females was thinking ahead enough to determine her fertility (never mind she lost or misplaced the box), I’m assuming in hopes to avoid this very situation my young, shy cousin has found herself in; that I too, once found myself in. But instead of empowering the concept, it was torn down and made a thing of ridicule on the walls of Facebook.

Are we as a Native community laying (no pun intended) the responsibility of sexual education and contraception on the schools? The TV? Or even worse, the youth themselves? Who taught you about sex? Who didn’t teach you about sex? Do you want to perpetuate that cycle? Or have you already perpetuated it?

As for my young cousin, what should be a day of celebrating her step into adulthood and promising future now feels like a bittersweet homage to the wasted potential of Native American women. Can she be the competent mom the accepting community expects her to be? Sure. Can she rise valiantly to the challenges motherhood will bring to a jobless young woman, living on the reservation? Most likely. But shouldn’t we expect our community to support, nurture and enrich our youths’ lives before the onset of parenthood and its myriad responsibilities? Do we care so much about breeding that we’ve forgotten how to breed capable parents?

Who’s to say she won’t surprise us all. Time will tell.

Christina M. Castro (Jemez/Taos Pueblo) is a newcomer to The Thing About Skins and will provide some much-needed female energy to fold. She is a writer, educator and community organizer. With degrees in English, Creative Writing and Education, she has worked with predominantly Native American students at schools throughout the Southwest. In 2008, she had the opportunity to work for Barack Obama’s Campaign for Change as a Field Organizer in the eight northern Pueblos of New Mexico. The invaluable experience and training she gained has only strengthened her resolve to continue her work for social change. She currently teaches English at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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hjwjc's picture
hjwjc
Submitted by hjwjc on
Clearly your article is well written and strongly critiques Native American people on teen pregnancy, education, lack of fathers, no support from parents, sex education, joblessness, incapable parents. In your BIO it says you had the opportunity to wori for Barack Obama's Campaign for CHANGE as a Field Organizer...now how do you propose to CHANGE all of the above. I am reminded of these individuals who can sit around all day and point out the bad, and never offer and solutions.

talyn's picture
talyn
Submitted by talyn on
Maybe she will surprise you, but if you really want her to, for god's sake don't leave her to figure out that alone, too! My family runs half-and-half on the kids-too-early, no daddy problem. Two out of four. Funny thing, three out of four are sucessful college graduates. The ONE who managed to be both an unplanned teen mom, and eventually both a great mother and a successful career woman (registered nurse, no less), sure didn't do it alone. She moved back in with our parents, and aunts, uncles and grandparents all baby-sat and half raised that little boy while she worked her way through community college. In the end, she is a terrifyingly determined, competent, and brilliant woman, and she has done it all because she wants her kids to have everything. Three kids now, and a husband too, by the way. But at first she thought she had failed at everything and only put in that college application because we all told her over and over that we still expected her to. One person can't provide all of the support a girl in her shoes needs, but at least tell her you think she can still do everything she wants to. Offer advice where you can. Its possible no one else has bothered. All that potential is still there, so stop telling her she wasted it!

glang3407's picture
glang3407
Submitted by glang3407 on
Please, it's not the end of the world!!!! I completely disagree!!!! I know of many females who have graduated college, with bachelor and master's degrees, with a baby on their hip. I have met some in the Army, and on the reservation. Even then, they all said the biggest accomplishment is their children. I know what those females didn’t have, is a cousin to publish a sad story of deep, dark sadness of their stolen youth and opportunities. Many young females on the rez need motivation, encouragement, and support, because nothing is impossible, especially dreams. No one said life is going to be easy, it may be a challenge for some of us Native American women, but we know that we have the strong Native will to strive for what we want out of life and for our family. For the young Native American females having kids on the rez, who are we to judge their life? Maybe that's the life choice they made for themselves. I have love & support for my young sisters & their kids back on the reservation; I would feel bad if I shoved my standards down their throats.

michelleshiningelk's picture
michelleshiningelk
Submitted by michelleshiningelk on
THE THING ABOUT SKINS is that this SKIN frequently questions what THE THING ABOUT SKINS is supposed to be. Why has Indian Country Media provided this platform for content that often seems more befitting a blog or an Op-ed article and what are the expectations of the editors of THE THING ABOUT SKINS, if any? Don’t get me wrong, I mean I totally get that the premise of this “column” is likely to provide insightful or humorous content that ideally provokes thought and/or initiates some form of dialogue, but frankly, all too often, the humor seems to gets lost in translation, and the insight comes off as negative judgments against our own community. Humor is one of our greatest forms of medicine – as Indian people we are truly blessed with the gift of an “Indian humor” as it is with humor we are able to see the world through an overlay of our Indian ability to see the funny and humorous things in our lives; especially, during the heaviest times. We have many things to laugh at and to laugh about – it is how we have survived and continue to survive. However, there is a big difference between seeing the humor in our ways and lives verses misapplying the use of humor to simply mock who we are as Indian people, or the things we do, or our differences in our cultures, beliefs and traditional ways from tribe to tribe – that’s just not productive. Who cares right? Why am I wondering such things about THE THING ABOUT SKINS? Well, the above installment “Baby Blues” bothered something in the mind. Searching, trying to pinpoint the issue(s) plaguing the brain about this piece - it took sleeping on it before clarity and understanding about my feelings over this piece became clear. Leaving me to wonder. How is such a one-sided piece like this approved to go to “print?” How is it helpful? Given that it isn’t a balanced objective piece, how is it relevant to Indian country other than being a rant of personal opinion? Is this column a free for all for the writers and their (all too often) strong and harsh opinions that fail to offer solutions? Are there no editorial standards required of the writers for this column?

michelleshiningelk's picture
michelleshiningelk
Submitted by michelleshiningelk on
So…continued from my previous post, thing about THIS skin after reading this latest installment entitled “Baby Blues” is that I share the same “initial reaction of shock, followed by feelings of deep, dark sadness” proclaimed by the writer in the second paragraph. We are anything but of the same mind on this, and our viewpoints the antithesis to how we view the most powerful thing in creation, a woman’s ability to bring a child into this world – whatever the age. I read “Baby Blues” several times in an attempt to gain a better understanding of the seemingly intolerant and contemptuous viewpoint of the writer as it relates to her young cousin who happens to be pregnant. Unfortunately, the search only yielded frustration over the inadequate acknowledgement of the writer to praise her young cousin for obtaining her high school diploma and instead focus is on what she deems a life lost to breeding. The writer’s words here are extremely hurtful, her statements overwhelming generalized, and any evidence of even an ounce of support, nurturing and belief in a young relative and her future, non-existent. As such, my thoughts kept turning into hope that luck will prevail and this young lady will not see the damaging rhetoric her relative has written about her, that she might never learn of the hopeless perception her relative has of her life. Then, the reality set and my heart sank into my stomach as I imagine the via dolorosa this young lady will endure when she reads this and realizes that she is being condemned and criticized publicly by her cousin who is also judging her from a place of moral superiority. Clearly not having taken into consideration the harmful effects such a highly prejudiced view could have on this young lady: psychologically, spiritually and emotionally. Especially, once she realizes there has been a breach of a familial trust and lack of loyalty. The writer made her feelings and opinions about how she feels about her young cousins status dreadfully clear as she included in her piece statement like: “She [young cousin] is quite simply the next in the succession of breeders building the bricks of the adobe wall that is our community; a community that reveres Indian babies seemingly more than anything in the world.” “…I couldn’t be truly shocked.” Statistically speaking, it was bound to happen. Honestly, I had a feeling it would happen.” “…What should be a day of celebrating her [cousin’s] step into adulthood and a promising future now feels like a bittersweet homage to the wasted potential of Native American women.” “Can she be the competent mom the accepting community expects her to be?” “Can she rise valiantly o the challenges motherhood will bring to a jobless woman, living on the reservation? “Shouldn’t we expect our community to support, nurture and enrich out youths’ lives before the onset on parenthood and myriad of responsibilities? “Do we care so much about breeding that we’ve forgotten how to breed capable parents?” WOW! Really? It is nearly unbelievable, but given it shows up in black and white in print and has made its way to the Indian County Media website where it shall perpetually live, confirms…it’s real. What’s all-the-more disturbing is that the writer of this piece is an educator stocked with multiple degrees and who works with American Indian young people at the college level. One would think, and it is perplexing to me as I attempt to understand why her priority (regardless of personal opinion) was to focus on what is deemed the negative aspect of this story (a thrown away life due to pregnancy) and not on the obvious – the inspiration and celebration of a major educational milestone of a young person. Perhaps I am being overly critical and sensitive and it is quite likely that if I thought THE THING ABOUT SKINS to be traditional journalism where objectivity is the key, I wouldn’t expect cultural sensitivity or a personal connection that is respect bound from “Baby Blues”. Clearly, objectivity does not exist here so I would normally have expected the writer to do the best she can to be fair, which means I expect that she would have added a perspective that offset her negative preconceived notions. I suppose that my work as a youth advocate has a lot to do with how I feel about this piece. I come from a place where I believe in, and promote, culturally appropriate curriculum that strengthens our youth by incorporating materials, lessons and guidance that link traditional and cultural knowledge originating in the home or by the families to the curriculum associated with their education. Deeply embedded cultural values are a fundamental necessity when teaching, guiding and nurturing our young people. Do we have issues with American Indian teen pregnancy? Yes. It is a fact that American Indian youth does have a higher birth rate than the national rate, and American Indian women experience sexual assault at a higher rate than all other U.S. populations, note the following statistics, another one of our harsh realities. • 34.1% or more then 1 in 3 American Indian women will be raped in their lifetime. • 92% of American Indian girls who had sexual intercourse reported having been forced against their will to have sexual intercourse. As I sit here and write this, I am truly trying to better understand where such highly prejudice views of the writer in relation to our young American Indian women (our life givers) is coming from. I feel certain none is based on reason, or actual experience in a rural reservation setting, but I do think that: 1. Maybe her opinions about our young women and motherhood are obscured by the weight of her internalized oppression? 2. Maybe she doesn’t have a realistic view or understanding of the accessibility or inaccessibility of heath care for Indian women in rural reservation areas? 3. Maybe her urban upbringing makes her unaware of the historical and cultural aspects that come into play for rural reservation Indian women as it relates to sexual relations, childbearing and motherhood? 4. Maybe it comes through her academic success and years of adhering to non-native mainstream values and norms embedded in school systems not dedicated to American Indian curriculum of her past teaching experiences? So, with that said, If any of the above is true and indicative of her position, I offer her the following information with the hope she might gain a better understanding of rural reservation American Indian people verses the Urban American Indian. Health Care Accessibility A large percentage of American Indians live on reservations. Many of which are isolated and lack easy access to health care and jobs. Indian Health Services (“IHS”) provides health care, but services are all too often severely limited or non-existent. What’s more, 4 in 10 Indians in the U.S. have no access to an IHS clinic. No IHS clinic is alike. The clinics do not have standardized protocols. Due to the complexities of the tribal and government health care provisions, each American Indian community has a different set of rules and resources to access. American Indian women are forced to figure out how to navigate their way through the bureaucratic red tape before they get to the services and medicines they need. Just like any other population in the US, the more hoops a women is forced to jump through hoops for their health care…the less likely they are to jump. Education, outreach, and open discussion on the facts about sex, sexual violence, incest, birth control, emergency contraceptives and abortion are minimal, at best. Unless the women have jobs with insurance or live in an urban area, there is insufficient information available or offered – if even provided. IHS is subject to federal policies, including the Hyde Amendment, that exclude abortion from the comprehensive health care services provided to low-income people by the federal government, except in cases of rape, incest, or endangerment of the woman’s life. How effective is the Hyde Amendment? Between 1973 and 2001 throughout the 157 IHS and Tribal Managed Service Units, IHS performed only 25 abortions. It is highly unlikely that in nearly 30 years only 25 American Indian women nationwide sought abortion from IHS due to rape, incest or endangerment of life. Over the years, IHS has notoriously denied American Indian women the same options of birth control that are afforded to mainstream women. Historical Trauma Effects on Parental Teaching Roles and Healthcare In our American Indian communities, the task of teaching healthy sexual relations is much more difficult given the historical oppression that included attempts at cultural annihilation. The damage from that early abuse, loneliness and lack of love is a major factor in ills that plague tribes and tribal people today. The effects are trans-generational and manifesting in high rates of poverty, substance abuse, domestic violence, depression and suicide. From around 1891 through the early 1940s, an estimated 87% of all American Indian families were subjected to the separation and subsequent trauma of boarding schools. In the boarding school era, children were not permitted to see their parents, relatives or friends for much of the 8 years they were in the boarding school. Even when children were allowed to go home for breaks – poverty prevented their visits home, as transportation costs made travel prohibitive. While in boarding schools, ANYTHING INDIAN, whether it was language, religion, dress or even a personal “outlook on life” was forbidden. Punishment was beyond extreme for violating any rule and come in the form of food being withheld, beatings and isolation. Speaking the Native language was particularly egregious, research of one school’s punishment levels demonstrated that in one case, a finger was cut off, one at a time, each time a 6-year old girl spoke in her Native tongue. Because she did NOT speak English, it took her losing three fingers before she eventually understood not to speak. Graveyards of boarding schools are filled with the bodies of Native children who were neglected, abused and died from such. Following the boarding school era was the Native American child removal to adoption and foster homes UNTIL the passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978, which FINALLY put a stop to randomly and without cause removing Indian children from their homes. About one half of the American Indian people alive today were products of the removal process. The boarding school movement and the infamous “kill the Indian, save the man” movement did destroy American Indian culture, but it has had long lasting effects on Indian families and communities. American Indian moral teachings and cultural traditions have been trivialized, outlawed, damaged and concealed. The forced separation of family members, neglect and abuse interrupted normal American Indian family and community life and sabotaged the passing down of family values, norms and the cultural support systems that defined and maintained family and community values Without family and parenting models, subsequent generations have suffered. Currently we are in a widespread effort to reestablish these teachings, traditions, language and cultural norms to heal families and communities. Reintroducing these values is a critical component in the foundation of teaching health relations. To the writer, I say this. Regardless of what you feel personally about your young cousin being pregnant,…shaming our young women who find themselves pregnant, making them feel incompetent, alone, or like failures is not the right route to take. No one desires to see our young people enter parenthood too soon; however, should it happen, making them feel that their pregnancy is a sentence of a desolate and squandered life is not the answer. Underestimating the strength and tenacity of our Indian women – at any age – under any circumstance, is your bad. I leave you with these final words: WE AS INDIAN PEOPLE have never forgotten the status of women. Those who have gotten away from the traditions may act as if they never learned, but all of us know inside. Our memories are long, as long as the line of the generations. The elders have always passed on this knowledge. We have been told to never forget. So, we remember and pass it on, too. With us, there is NO past, everything is NOW, and the only future is the generations to come. So we continue the ceremonies. To participate in them is to participate in the circle of life, the whole circle – seen and unseen. They remind us to maintain balance, to honor the Creator, the earth and to acknowledge and show respect for the medicine powers…the powers of Indian women as life givers.

hjwjc's picture
hjwjc
Submitted by hjwjc on
THANK YOU to all you Native American Women who chose to speak against this article. WE have a hard enough time getting through life without having a 'self righteous' individual rain down on us. The teen cousin clearly has a support system; parents who seem to have accepted her situation. Yeah she may not have planned this pregnancy but she isn't opting out, abortion. The part in author's BIO refers to SOCIAL CHANGE. There are tribes out there who are working for change and solutions not just complaining about it. FOR EXAMPLE: Parenting Programs, Teen Father Parenting Programs, Teen Pregnancy Prevention Programs, Sexually Transmitted Infections(Prevention), Adult Education Programs. It is difficult for some Native American people to talk openly about sex. It is hard for a teen father to be a father when no one wants him around. There are teen fathers/mothers who do a good job with guidance. Sometimes the court has to get involved and order ADULT parents to parenting classes. Did you as a relative and a person who has "invaluable experience and training blah blah blah work for social change" ever pull this young cousin aside and counsel her? Against my wishes my child decided to get married I pleaded with the child not to do this. To no avail. This happens. They had a beautiful baby. As a Native American parent I supported them and gave them tips on child rearing, suggestions: Don't leave the baby near the edge of the bed, give the baby a bath in the morning and evening, when the babay cries they need something that is their way of communicating,etc. Adult education. I am not a fan of public school alot of kids "GET LEFT BEHIND". I was one of those parents who went to college with a baby on my hip and graduated. That's that.

gyasiross's picture
gyasiross
Submitted by gyasiross on
Thank you all for your comments. Thank you to Christina M. Castro for bringing such a solid piece--it obviously prompts strong feelings in many people. I appreciate everybody that points out the exceptions to the statistical rules; yes, of course a young lady can do very, very well and lead an amazing life while having a child. Still, that doesn't erase the rule--single mothers attain less education, make less money, etc. Those are numbers, not argument. For more numbers, there are a disproportionate amount of young single mothers in Indian Country. Those two different sets of numbers conspire to create a very difficult life for many young Native women. I was raised by a single mother, with two sisters that were single mothers, and nieces and cousins, etc etc...the cycle goes on and on. To the extent that folks have issues with the numbers, I suggest you come live on the rez for awhile, work with young folks, and try to change those numbers. That's an honest invitation-we're waiting. I'm here, I see exactly this same phenomenon every day. Miss Castro characterized it perfectly and I'm thankful for this honest lens. Therefore, to answer any questions--that's what The Thing About Skins is here for: to provide an unabashedly honest lens about the things that we see amongst our people. Sometimes those things are beautiful and sometime ugly. As Native people, we are both.

rckiowa's picture
rckiowa
Submitted by rckiowa on
Thanks for putting this out there for others to consider, Christina Castro. I have several nieces and nephews and I'd prefer they read something like this instead of some claptrap, cheerleading, "ndnz can do no wrong" opinion piece.

hjwjc's picture
hjwjc
Submitted by hjwjc on
Gyasi I am surprised you replied... I work with people who Castro is describing and you can not be JUDGEMENTAL. In social services/work, any kind work where one provides assistance to a population, we do our best to support them. They're PEOPLE not just NUMBERS. I know the numbers too. But you can not write an article and then expect people to just "Stop it." If that was her reason for writing this piece. I don't know if this was supposed to "provide some much-needed female energy to fold" either, was it? A question I have is: WHERE ARE THE FATHER'S? 60 to 70% of the families on some reservations have no FATHER'S. That isn't ok. I was in a councilman's office on a reservation when he was brought a note from a young receptionist in tee-shirt and jeans. The note was from a woman asking him to buy pampers, milk, and clothes for her baby. The councilman's question was,"Where is the father? How come HE isn't doing this?" Pathetic...

talyn's picture
talyn
Submitted by talyn on
I don't think it is the subject matter or an honest assessment of the odds against a girl in this postion that any of us are objecing to. Yes, we know success stories, and we know a lot more not-so-successful. We know these numbers, we work with these numbers, we live with these numbers, many of us ARE these numbers. Yes, this is an issue that needs talking about, and more importantly, it needs action. We are trying. I don't think anyone could say that michelleshiningelk, for example, isn't doing everything she can. We do need to have this conversation, we need to figure out the best ways to change those numbers and yes, Christina M. Castro has got us talking. That isn't what upset us. At least, it isn't what upset me. Mz. Castro mentioned numbers, but she didn't really write about the numbers, she gave a very specific exemplar, a girl who could likely be identified by anyone who knows the family, a girl who would certainly recognize herself if she read this. And the overall tone of the article seems to be, well, you're ruined now. Might as well throw you away. And THAT is my problem. Yes, in her final paragraph she gives grudging consideration to the possibility that this girl will scrape out a half acceptable life, she MIGHT surprise us, but it doesn't seem like she really believes it. It seems to me like it is much to soon to be giving up on this girl. More importantly, we won't change those numbers by going around holding up our children as bad examples and telling them they are hopeless. Or by sitting back and waiting for time to tell. We don't know much about this girl, but to paraphrase Mz. Castro, statistically speaking, I couldn't be truely shocked if it turned out her beautiful young cousin was forced or coerced. Wouldn't that be a horrible reason to decide she was 'a homage to the wasted potential of Native American women'? Is that what happened? I don't know. I have no right to know. But what I DO know is that this article reads very much like someone throwing stones at a girl whose path is plenty hard enough to begin with. Mz. Castro paints a very painful picture, but the rather fatalistic tone seems more likely to reinforce the problem that to inspire anyone solve it. Yes, the numbers are grim, yes, the situation is hard, but it isn't hopeless. Don't tell her it is hopeless because if she beleives you then she becomes...just another number.

navapache's picture
navapache
Submitted by navapache on
I thought the article was a very well written and honest portrayal of teen pregnancy. I'm surprised by the comments but I shouldn't be. Teen pregnancy is not just an Indian issue, the main stream has come to accept it as almost normal. Although, on the rez it's more than just normal, sadly by the author's own admission it has even become expected. I recently experienced this deep dark sadness when the pregnancy of a girl in our community was revealed. She will be a high school senior this coming year, she's an outstanding athlete and comes from a very respected family. She's also the product of a former teen mother. Like her mother, I have no doubt she will conquer this blemish in her life's plans but that doesn't erase the disappointment. My reaction was that I wanted her to know her life was not over, to give her hope at a time of sorrow, fear, and uncertainty. I also knew that the disappointment I felt was not disappointment in her actions. It was disappointment that we failed to give her the tools she needed to prevent this from happening to her. Yes, our community will love, cherish, and raise this child of hers and continue in our best hopes and support for this young mother. However, we have all supported her from tee ball to varsity softball, from youth basketball camp to the State Championship but did we do enough to secure this unlimited future for her. Did she know enough about sex, birth control, emergency contraception? Are we providing a safe and non-judgmental environment for her to feel free to ask questions and get the reproductive health care that she needs? The fact is that we are not. We are failing our young, talented, and smart women AND men. What's worse is we are hiding this ugly truth behind our cultural ways. While we should continue to uphold respect for women as life givers and continue to expect fathers to provide and care for their families, we also need to provide them the tools to be successful parents which then leads to successful communities. This means that we need to have positive expectations of our youth and provide them with the education and healthcare they need to meet our expectations.

talyn's picture
talyn
Submitted by talyn on
I think perhaps navapache has done a good job of making the point Mz. Castro was probably trying to make. Essentially, that we need to get to them younger. That they need all of that support and intervention before they get pregnant (or their girlfriend gets pregnant). The pregnancy isn't the problem, it is a symptom. The truth is, it generally isn't becoming teenage parents that traps them in poverty and limits their access to education and healthcare, it is the other way around. Poverty, and a lack of access to education and healthcare makes them more likely to become teen parents. We need to figure out how to counter that. We need good, effective youth programs. We need mentoring programs. And it is very simple to say that. It isn't some revolutionary new idea, I suspect everyone has thought of and wished for something along those lines. The hard part is, who runs them? Exactly what do they try to do? How do they reach children? How are they FUNDED? Sadly, as is true of most problems, money is a big part of the mess. You can't do much without a budget. The answers to those hard questions are going to be different for every community. They are questions we need to take home and talk about with our families and neighbors, because we can't entirely answer them here. It is a very big problem. Its overwhelming, really. So, I'll offer this as a final thought, and then I'll shut up. If you are feeling overwhelmed, like it is too big a problem and there isn't anything you as an idividual can really do, take a look around your family. Take a look around your neighborhood. Is there a kid who seems at risk? Who is falling through the cracks, has no one reliable to go to for advise? Can you give that kid one hour a week? Be a mentor for one. Advocate for one. Change just one number, and you change them all. Statistics are funny that way.
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