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Mission West Virginia has served the state for over two decades, steadfastly adhering to our mission to change the lives of youth and families. We promote positive futures by recruiting foster families, providing life skills education and creating community connections.

We help families with the foster care process – every step of the way. We provide the tools, resources and education youth need to make healthy life choices.

Our vision: One people, one state, working together to provide every child with a loving family and the knowledge to make positive choices for a healthier future. Mission West Virginia has two major youth service programs, FrameWorks and THINK.

FrameWorks finds families for children waiting in the foster care system. Our efforts include recruiting families to foster/adopt, helping families to navigate the certification process and providing support to kinship caregivers. Additionally, we organize events throughout the year to promote awareness of foster care, adoption and kinship care.

Since 2007, Mission West Virginia has led a statewide effort to reduce the teen birthrate in West Virginia. The teen birth rate in West Virginia has declined 35.9% since the program began. This success is due in part to the efforts of strong leadership and dedicated, passionate staff.

Even with such remarkable progress, 4 girls ages (15-19) in West Virginia gave birth every day in 2017 and the state has the 8th highest teen birth rate in the nation (2017). Our staff works tirelessly every day to ensure progress continues by:

We partner with schools, detention centers and other youth-serving organizations to help students succeed academically and in life by providing them with the resources needed to make positive decisions. To date, our program has served nearly 80,000 youth in West Virginia.

We use only evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention curriculum that not only focuses on sexual health, but also healthy relationships, bullying, teen dating violence, substance abuse, self-image and so much more.

We train and support professionals across the state in order to directly address the teen pregnancy prevention needs of the youth they serve. This includes working with partners to: educate teens on how to make better choices, delay sexual activity, use contraception, and prevent STIs and repeat births

A holistic approach is necessary. Our program isn’t just sex education. It is so much more than preventing STDs/STIs and unplanned pregnancy. Our program is about fostering the knowledge and life skills that allow youth to make informed choices about their bodies, relationships, values, self-image, health, identity, consent, safety and sexual decision making. We work to prevent high risk behaviors such as alcohol and drug use, school truancy, bullying and trafficking. Our program supports healthy development of the whole person – inside and out.

Nearly all teen pregnancies are unplanned—that is, teens themselves say they did not intend to get pregnant or cause a pregnancy. Our program helps teens to match their intentions with their actions. As a result of many factors—including increased access to sexual health information and birth control—the United States has seen a 70 percent decline in the teen birth rate since 1991, including profound declines in all 50 states and among all racial/ethnic groups.

However, despite the national (and local) progress, West Virginia still far outranks the national average teen birth rate of 18.8 per 1,000. West Virginia’s teen birth rate is 27.1 per 1,000, ranking us as the 8th highest teen birth rate in the nation. To help put those numbers in perspective, nearly three out of every 100 teen girls will have a child each year in West Virginia. Rates are higher among young people living in poverty, foster care, or facing persistent racism and discrimination.

The mere fact that teens don’t want to get pregnant is reason enough to ensure that they have access to quality information and birth control. Beyond that, however, preventing teen pregnancy helps expand opportunity, create positive social change, and allow young people to be stronger contributors to their communities.

For example, the national graduation rate is a critical priority –yet nearly one-third of teen girls who have dropped out of high school cite early pregnancy or parenthood as a key reason. Only 40 percent of teen moms finish high school, and less than 2 percent finish college by age 30.

Girls in foster care, already at risk of dropping out of high school, are 2.5 times more likely than their peers to get pregnant. Ensuring that all teens have quality information and access to birth control is one of the best strategies to boost the graduation rate. Consider this: between 2001 and 2009, while teen births were plummeting, the national graduation rate increased by 3.5 percentage points.

Add in the positive impact that preventing teen pregnancy can have on so many other issues – reducing poverty and improving young people’s lifelong income, improving health and child welfare, supporting responsible fatherhood, and reducing other risky behaviors – and preventing teen pregnancy becomes not only a reproductive health issue but a national priority. What’s more, daughters born to women in their 20s are three times less likely to become teen moms themselves compared with daughters of teen moms – so it is a change that ripples across generations.

Our program provides a support system that enables young people to have access to the knowledge necessary to make the decision if, when, and under what circumstances to get pregnant, and have a child.

Thanks to the historic data, we know the program works. However, our work is far from done. We are constantly looking to expand our program to additional counties in West Virginia.

– Becky White is a commun­ications specialist with Mission West Virginia in Putnam County

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