HHS Awards Bonuses for Reduced Unwed Birth Rates, Increased Adoptions; Religion & Parents are Strongest Influences in Delaying Sexual Activity

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Thursday, September 27, 2001

HHS Awards Bonuses for Reduced Unwed Birth Rates, Increased Adoptions
Two states-Alabama and Michigan-and the District of Columbia will receive bonus payments of $25 million each for reducing their rates of out-of-wedlock births without increasing their rates of abortions. This is the third round of such incentive payments since enactment of the 1996 welfare reform law, and is based on a comparison of figures from 1996-97 and 1998-99. A central goal of the 1996 legislation was to reduce the out-of-wedlock childbearing that often fuels welfare dependency. The number of states receiving such bonuses has declined since the first awards were issued in 1999. Forty-eight states saw increases in out-of-wedlock birth rates this time, but the three entities awarded bonuses this year have remained on the list since the beginning. The District of Columbia saw the most dramatic reduction in the ratio of out-of-wedlock births, with 3.9 percent. Alabama’s ratio declined by .25 percent and Michigan’s by .009 percent.

This followed another HHS announcement on September 10 that 35 states and the District of Columbia would receive bonuses totaling nearly $11 million for increasing the number of children adopted from child welfare agencies, including children in foster care. Designed to increase incentives for states to reduce the amount of time children languish in foster care, this program was part of the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997. Wade Horn, HHS Assistant Secretary for Children & Families, said, “These awards demonstrate that states have made great progress in reducing the number of children waiting to become part of a permanent family. I challenge public agencies to keep building on this record of success.”

Religion & Parents are Strongest Influences in Delaying Sexual Activity
Teenagers with strong religious and moral beliefs are less likely to have sexual relations outside of marriage, according to a survey conducted recently by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy (NCPTP) and the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. Forty percent of teens surveyed said that religious and moral beliefs have the most significant influence on their decisions to delay sex. About half of the teens surveyed cited parents as “most influential” in their decisions; only 6 percent cited ministers and rabbis. Moral considerations were much more influential than factors such as worries about disease (17 percent) or pregnancy (15 percent). In addition, a large majority of both parents (70 percent) and teens (73 percent) believe that churches and other houses of worship should do more to help prevent teen pregnancy.

Contrary to assertions by advocates of comprehensive sex education and “safe sex,” only 10 percent of teens cited sex education as a major influence in their decision to delay sexual activity. One particularly striking finding was that conservative Protestant and Catholic teens are both more likely to delay sex longer and are less inclined to use contraception. This suggests that providing teenagers with more information about sex-including more information about sexually transmitted diseases and contraception-is much less likely to protect them from the hazards associated with pre-marital sex than advocates of this approach would have us believe. Isabel Sawhill, president of the NCPTP, said that schools have tended to reduce sex education to nothing more than a discussion of “reproductive biology,” rather than placing it in a moral context. “They are scared to death to touch moral questions, by and large,” she remarked.

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